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USDA announces investments in rural community facilities that will benefit nearly 300,000 Americans

Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $91 million to build or improve community facilities (PDF, 108 KB) and essential services for nearly 300,000 rural residents in 12 states, including Ohio.

“Modern community facilities are key drivers of economic development,” Baxley said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building and maintaining these institutions that are foundational to quality of life and prosperity.”

USDA is funding 16 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The funding helps rural small towns, cities and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as public schools, libraries,

The projects announced are located in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding.

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A letter from Ohio agriculture to Ohio agriculture regarding LEBOR and water quality

Dear Friend,

The seriousness of the water quality issue as it pertains to Ohio agriculture has never been greater than it is right now.

With the recent passage of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR), Lake Erie has now been granted the same legal rights normally reserved for a person. That means that any Toledoan who believes a business in the watershed is doing something they deem as detrimental to the lake could sue on the lake’s behalf.

It was no secret that if LEBOR passed, agriculture would have the biggest target on its back. Farmers statewide need to be aware of its possible implications.

Wood County farmer Mark Drewes has taken the lead in challenging LEBOR in court. And this letter from every major agriculture group in the state is to let you know we fully support him.

Drewes acted quickly and took a strong approach when he bravely stood up for his family farm and all farms in Ohio by taking legal action to prevent senseless lawsuits stemming from LEBOR.

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Ohio’s senators weigh in on the changing climate

By Matt Reese

There is no doubt about it: 2018 was wet. It was the third wettest year on record and farmers should prepare for more soggy situations moving forward. At the recent Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada, Ohio State University climate specialist Aaron Wilson said temperatures are also on the rise and more rain is not coincidental. The warmer conditions lead to a greater amount of water vapor in the atmosphere and increased rainfall potential. Farmers are acutely aware of the situation; so are politicians.

This week in Washington, D.C. there was also plenty of talk about the changing climate as legislators considered the Green New Deal resolution spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The much-discussed Green New Deal brought “cow farts” into the national political debate and strives for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and the creation of jobs. Estimates suggest the Green New Deal could cost anywhere from around $50 trillion to over $90 trillion between 2020 and 2029 in addition to a wide array of potential societal costs.

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Data synthesis important for ag research

Agricultural researchers generate vast amounts of data. Little of it is shared with peers or accessible to the public. A diverse group of scientists led by Sylvie Brouder, a Purdue University professor of agronomy, is calling for change and proposing the infrastructure to make it happen.

Brouder led the creation of a commentary paper, “Enabling Open-Source Data Networks in Public Agricultural Research,” for the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology with colleagues from the Environmental Defense Fund, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Washington State University, Texas A&M University, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Brouder presented the paper to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“The next generation of agricultural problem solving will require big science and forging linkages across data sets and disciplines,” the paper says. “Currently, a lack of data sharing and data accessibility is a major barrier for making better decisions in agriculture.”

Solving the world’s grand challenges — feeding nearly 10 billion people by 2050, reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and ensuring access to clean water — depends heavily upon agricultural research and advances.

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Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents’ trip highlights trade and farm economy

By Matt Reese

Ohio Farm Bureau’s county presidents flooded Capitol Hill this week with their message of how farms in Ohio — and their farms specifically — are impacted with federal policy decisions.

“It is so easy for all of us to take our food system and agricultural industry for granted. It is so important here at Capitol Hill for our farmer leaders to come out and tell their stories to help educate the leaders here in Washington about the challenges facing Ohio agriculture and what is happening on our farms,” said Jack Irvin, with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF). “Having that personal story makes it so much more real than some white piece of paper that has a bunch of facts listed on it. When you have a real-life person telling a real-life story, it is something you can remember and understand a lot more easily than some generic talking point from a generic lobbyist.”

The county presidents start the trip with an overview of the policy issues from the experts before meeting with legislators.

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Lesser Celandine is on the rise

By Joe Boggs, Ohio State University Extension

Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria = Ficaria verna) plants are starting to rise in southern Ohio. This non-native is known as a “spring ephemeral” owing to the time of year when the short-lived plants and flowers are present. The majority of this weed’s hide-and-seek life-cycle is spent hidden from view as underground tubers.

The tubers provide energy that drives the weed’s brief appearance above-ground in the spring. Shoots may begin to rise as early as mid-to-late January in southern Ohio depending on environmental conditions. However, their growth has been delayed a bit this year owing to the almost continual below average winter temperatures.

This non-native invasive belongs to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, and is sometimes called “fig buttercup.” The “fig” refers to the shape of the underground tubers and “buttercup” describes the flowers.

Lesser celandine is native to Europe, northern Africa, western Asia, and Siberia.

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The pulse of the kitchen

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

I live with a dairy farmer and meat and milk are usually what’s for dinner at our house. However, I think for one meal a week, or better yet a serving daily, all us carnivores can think outside the box and enjoy beans and legumes, or pulses as they are called these days. Pulses are the edible seeds grown in pods that are harvested dry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes 11 types of pulses: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes (which is everything not in a before mentioned group).

Experts will say they are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Those hot trendy terms are not why I like to recommend them. Pulses are low fat and high in fiber with plenty of protein. Research has shown that eating a half-cup to three-quarters of a cup of pulses per day can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Trump’s budget includes ag spending cuts

President Trump submitted his FY 2020 budget proposal to Congress drawing the praise ad the ire of many with regard to agricultural spending that cuts $2.2 billion from federal food and farm programs.

“Our economy is booming, and unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades. While the agriculture community still faces challenges, the Trump economy is creating new opportunities for all Americans to thrive,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “President Trump’s budget is fiscally conservative and lays out a vision for an accountable federal government that cuts spending. With our national debt soaring to over $22 trillion, we can no longer kick the can down the road. The time to act is now and USDA will actively do its part in reducing federal spending. We are stewards of other people’s money and must be diligent in spending it more carefully than we would our own when it comes to delivering our programs.

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Morrow County Farm Bureau member appreciation breakfast

Morrow County Farm Bureau will celebrate Ag Week, local farmers and our rural community with its Member Appreciation Breakfast on March 23. Come, mingle and meet with Morrow County Farm Bureau volunteers and local farmers. Join us for table-top discussions and great fellowship.

We will be serving 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Handlebar Ranch, 6695 County Rd. 76, Mt. Gilead. The menu includes French toast sticks, ham, biscuits & gravy, potatoes, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee. Reservations are due by March 13. The price will be $3 for Farm Bureau members, $7 for non-members. If you become a member that morning, your breakfast will be on us! You can also renew your membership at the event.

We know that food and fiber doesn’t just arrive at the grocery or clothing store…or magically appear on our dinner table or in our closet. There’s an entire industry dedicated to providing plentiful and safe food for consumption.

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Say cheese! Guggisberg once again named U.S. champions

By Joel Penhorwood

Guggisberg Cheese of Millersburg, Ohio has topped the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest once again.

The 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest put the Guggisberg’s baby Swiss entry at the very top at the annual competition’s gathering this past week. The company also won in 2015 with their Swiss entry.

No matter which way you cut it, it’s an extremely prestigious honor, said Ursula Guggisberg-Bennett.

“This is an absolutely huge honor for us,” she said. “It’s one thing to win the top of your category, which we won first place in the Swiss category and then first place in the baby Swiss category. But then to win the grand champion overall over 2,555 entries it’s just an absolute phenomenal win for us. We’re so, so excited.”

The company continues to take pride in their northeast Ohio settings, saying the unique mineral deposits of the surrounding soil add a unique feature to their final dairy products.

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House offers changes to DeWine’s gas tax proposal

The proposed “gas tax” by Gov. Mike DeWine in the State transportation budget would raise the state’s tax of fuel from the current 28-cents-per-gallon to 46 cents and generate $1.2 billion as part of the two-year, $7.4 billion transportation budget.

The reason behind the proposed increase is significant shortfall in the state’s road and bridge maintenance budget — something the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) looks to quickly approach $1 billion by 2030 if unabated.

Last week the Ohio House responded to the governor’s proposal with a 71 to 27 vote to raise the tax on gas 10.7 cents with a two-year phase in period, making the tax on gas $0.387 per gallon. In addition, the House:

  • Increased the tax for on-road diesel by 20 cents over a three-year phase in period, making the tax on on-road diesel $0.48 per gallon.
  • Added a provision putting compressed natural gas to the list of taxable motor fuels.
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Wet weather will continue into March…and possibly April

By Jim Noel, NOAA

There is not a lot of great news in the short-term. The wet pattern so far this year is likely to persist into March as an active weather pattern from the Pacific Ocean moves across the U.S.

In addition, the temperature gradient is amplified more than normal this late winter into early spring, meaning colder north and warmer south. This will help fuel the storms and keep things active.

The outlook for March calls for temperatures near or slightly below normal with precipitation above normal. The outlook through May calls for near normal temperatures and near to above normal rainfall.

The two-week rainfall graphic from the NOAA/NWS/Ohio River Forecast Center calls for 1.5 to 3 inches of rain across the state of Ohio. Normal is about 1.5 inches so expect above normal precipitation the next several weeks. The greatest totals the next 2 weeks will be in the southern and western sections of the state.

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Newbie turkey hunters wanted

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

I love this idea: adults interested in learning how to hunt turkeys are invited to apply for a mentored hunt in northwest Ohio this spring. The opportunity is targeted to adults who want to learn how to pursue gobblers with hands-on help from an experienced hunter, who will determine the time and place of the hunt and accompany the newbie through the process. If only this type of program were available when I decided to set my sights on gobblers a few decades ago!

You can apply for the hunt by calling Andrea Altman at 419-429-8321 by 4 p.m. Friday, March 15. You must be at least 18 years old and must have eave never previously held a turkey tag in Ohio or have held a turkey tag in Ohio but were unsuccessful at harvesting a turkey.

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Recovery of gray wolf a conservation success story

The Fish and Wildlife Service today announced they will soon begin a rulemaking to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. Many farm-related groups are calling the agency’s intent to delist the gray wolf a conservation success story.

“There are more than 5,000 gray wolves in the United States and more than 10 times as many over the Canadian border. The U.S. population of gray wolves far surpasses the recovery targets called for by the Endangered Species Act,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau president. “Populations have reached critically high numbers in many states — so high, in fact, that wolves are not just preying on livestock, but pushing elk and deer onto U.S. farms and ranches, which leads to even more destruction.

“The administration’s decision to de-list the gray wolf is the culmination of a decades’ long battle that has pitted science-based decision making against litigious, environmental activism.

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Infrastructure and water quality challenges outlined in State of the State

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

With northwest Ohio — and agriculture in general — still embroiled in a controversial water quality debate that spilled over from the previous administration, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the Buckeye State in his first State of the State speech on Tuesday, lasting 45 minutes.

The governor specifically mentioned Lake Erie’s Western Basin and the 2014 algae blooms in Toledo. He commended the work in the House and Senate to clean up the lake and promised to remain “dedicated to the long-term commitment to protect Ohio’s water quality for our children and grandchildren.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Director of State Policy Tony Seegers was glad to hear the mention of water quality by the governor.

“Water quality is something that we at Farm Bureau and folks in ag have been involved with and working towards for many years. We agree with the idea that the governor spoke about taking a dedicated, long-term commitment to protect our waterways.

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Future of solar energy in agriculture is bright

Three solar energy experts will discuss the use of this renewable energy application in the agriculture industry at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum, Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. The event is hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation (AIF).

Lee Andre of Harvest Energy Solutions, will be joined by colleague Ken Zabarah, territory manager for Ohio and Indiana, as well as Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of utilities, City of Bowling Green, as they explain the use of solar energy in the Midwest, grid management, review of northwest Ohio region solar usage, and what the future holds for the industry.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst concluded that solar energy has tremendous benefits in agriculture. For example, on a dairy farm where up to 40% of the energy used is for water heating, a solar water heater can reduce heating costs up to 85% annually.

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Road and bridge infrastructure could get a boost with increased Ohio “Gas Tax”

By Joel Penhorwood

The nature of modern agriculture means farmers are more in tune than most with fluctuating gas and diesel prices. A newly proposed ‘Gas Tax’ by Gov. Mike DeWine would raise the state’s tax of fuel from the current 28-cents-per-gallon to 46 cents.

The reason behind the proposed increase? A significant shortfall in the state’s road and bridge maintenance budget, something the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) looks to near $1 billion by 2030 if unabated.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said it comes down to an increasing cost for road work, an unpleasant, though unavoidable, reality.

“Neither I nor anyone I know, particularly farmers, embrace the opportunity to pay more taxes to federal, state, or local government, but one of the things I do keep coming back to is the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges goes up over time,” Steenhoek said.

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Meet and greet opportunities with ODA Director Pelanda

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is announcing the rest of a series of informal meet and greet events across Ohio with Director Dorothy Pelanda. The meetings will present the opportunity for Director Pelanda to introduce herself, share information regarding her background and listen to thoughts and ideas from members of Ohio’s food and agriculture industry.

The meet and greets will be hosted in conjunction with local soil and water conservation districts. The events are open to the public and members of the media are welcome to attend on the following dates:

March 4

1:00 p.m. – Eaton First Church of God, 601 E. Lexington Rd., Eaton, OH 45320

3:30 p.m. – Central Service Building, 220 W. Livingston St., Celina, OH 45822

March 12

2:00 p.m. – FFA Camp Muskingum Discover Center, 3266 Dyewood Rd. SW, Carrollton, OH 44615

March 13

8:00 a.m. – Round Lake Camp Dining Hall, 114 State Route 3, Lakeville, OH 44638

12:30 p.m.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court asked to decide scope of agency power to regulate agriculture

By Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

A Wisconsin court of appeals has certified two cases to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, asking the court to determine the extent of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s authority to regulate agriculture in order to protect groundwater.  A certification represents a lower court seeking guidance on an issue that the lower court believes it is not in the best position to decide without knowing what the higher court thinks.

These cases are important for Wisconsin because they pertain to a law passed in 2011 that restrained authority of state agencies to act beyond express grants of authority by the state legislature.  Specifically, the cases ask whether the Wisconsin DNR can impose conditions on issuing a permit beyond the conditions stated in a statute.  The affected parties in the cases range from dairy farms to manufacturers and from food processors to municipal water utilities.

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