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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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Nebraska wind farms sue to enforce contract and keep utility from flying off into the sunset

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

Three Nebraska windfarms in a power supply contract with the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) have filed suit to prevent the utility from backing out of the contract.  The wind farms filed a complaint in federal court in Nebraska on Jan. 30, alleging that NPPD expressed its intention to terminate a power purchase agreement, and that doing so would be wrongful.

The complaint explains NPPD’s position that the wind farms materially violated the contract by investing in other businesses and operations.  The plaintiffs disagree that there was a breach, but say that even if there was, NPPD cannot terminate the contract because it knew of the transactions.  The plaintiffs also note that NPPD has eminent domain power.

They argue that by terminating the contract, NPPD knows that the wind farms will likely enter default with creditors.  This could allow NPPD to acquire the rights of the wind farms through a foreclosure sale or eminent domain. … Continue reading

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FFA charter amendments approved by Congress and the President

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

Citing issues arising from the U.S. Department of Education’s not filling seats on the National FFA Board of Directors, the National FFA sought an amendment to its charter.  Congress originally granted the charter in 1950, and any changes to the charter must be done so by an act of Congress.

One of the major changes sought by National FFA was a reduction in the number of seats on the board of directors that must be appointed by the Department of Education.  By not filling all of the seats on the Board of Directors, the National FFA faced difficulty making decisions because it often could not meet its quorum for meetings.

The new amendments reduce the organization’s reliance on an appointment to its board of directors by the U.S. Department of Education, which increases the organization’s ability to self-govern. … Continue reading

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Conservation funding for federal lands could be restored under U.S. Senate bill

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

In a sign of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate passed the National Resources Management Act by a vote of 92-8.  If the House approves and it receives the President’s signature, the bill would modify a number laws addressing the management and conservation of federal lands, and would also restore funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which had expired last fall.  This fund primarily supports the protection of federal public lands and waters, but it also promotes voluntary conservation on private lands and awards grants to states for the acquisition and development of parks and outdoor recreation sites.  Also in the bill are two specific changes of note for Ohio.  First, section 6004(c) of the bill would increase the cap on total spending for the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway from $10 million to $20 million. … Continue reading

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Wood County farmer files lawsuit challenging LEBOR legality

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation has pledged its support to member and Wood County farmer Mark Drewes, who today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality and legal status of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. Toledo voters yesterday approved creation of LEBOR during a special election. Drewes’ suit was filed in the Federal District Court for Northern Ohio.

LEBOR grants rights to Lake Erie and empowers any Toledo citizen to file lawsuits on behalf of the lake. It gives Toledoans authority over nearly 5 million Ohioans, thousands of farms, more than 400,000 businesses and every level of government in 35 northern Ohio counties plus parts of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada.

LEBOR was passed despite the prevailing legal opinion that many of its provisions are unconstitutional.

Drewes is a long-time member of Ohio Farm Bureau and is on the board of directors for The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.… Continue reading

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Is U.S. agriculture ready for Generation Z?

By Robert Giblin, who consults, writes and speaks about food and agriculture trends, policy and issues for American Farm Bureau

In 2001, millennials emerged as the top consumer demographic, but their children — Generation Z — will make up 40% of consumers by 2020, according to Fast Company, a business magazine that focuses on technology, business and design. Made up of those born between 1995 and 2010 — Gen Z goes by many titles: the Selfie Generation, iGeneration, Post-Millennials, the App Generation, First Connected Kids, the Technology Inherent and more. Regardless of titles, Gen Z already is showing its independence and economic power in driving food trends, and will have profound impacts on agriculture and the food industry, as well as the workforce of the future.

The food industry has recognized the marketing importance of Gen Z for some time. Agriculture, on the other hand, more recently began exploring the tremendous opportunities and formidable challenges presented by this generation.… Continue reading

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Water quality meeting highlights research efforts

Farmers Alliance, LLC. is presenting an informative meeting about harmful algae blooms, research efforts, and how all of this affects on-farm decisions.

The event is being held Wed. March 13, 2019 at 16650 Rinehart Rd. Wapakoneta, Ohio 45895.

Dinner will be served at 6:00 p.m. with the meeting to follow.

Presenters include:

  • Aaron Heilers — Project manager for the Blanchard River Farms Network
  • Dr. Christopher Winslow — Director of Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, and of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program
  • Mike Hannewald — Northwest Ohio agronomist.

Presenters will be providing a glimpse into the research efforts that aim to:

  • Improve detection of HABs and understanding toxin production;
  • Develop new treatment methods for contaminated drinking water;
  • And assess the ability of land use changes to reduce nutrient inputs into aquatic ecosystems.

The program will also highlight nutrient sources today, our understanding of agricultural nutrient losses, farmer decisions, possible strategies to reduce P needs by 40%, and information gaps and research needs.… Continue reading

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Long-awaited WOTUS rewrite published

By Ellen Essman, Senior Research Associate, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Well, it’s been a while since we’ve written about the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), so everyone had to know we were overdue for WOTUS news!

On Dec. 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers announced the Trump Administration’s so-called “straightforward” new definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Publication of the proposed rule was delayed due to the federal government shutdown in December and January. The proposed rule was finally published in the Federal Register on Feb. 14, 2019. Interested parties can comment on the proposed WOTUS rule until April 15, 2019. Information on how to comment can be found here, and the proposed rule in its entirety can be found here.

 

Out with the old WOTUS…

The new definition would replace the 2015 definition of WOTUS promulgated under the Obama Administration.… Continue reading

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Citizens of Toledo approve the Lake Erie Bill of Rights

By Kolt Buchenroth and Matt Reese

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights was passed by the citizens of Toledo in a special election held on Tuesday, Feb. 26. According to the results from the Lucas County Board of elections, the measure was passed by a vote of 61.4% to 38.6% with only 8.9% of voters turning out to the polls.

There was a failed attempt to get this on the 2018 November ballot in Toledo. The effort to get LEBOR on the ballot was supported by out-of-state interests but it could have a very real in-state impact for a wide range of businesses. LEBOR opens up the possibility of thousands of lawsuits against any entity that could be doing harm to Lake Erie. This includes agricultural operations.

“Farm Bureau members are disappointed with the results of the LEBOR vote. Our concern remains that its passage means Ohio farmers, taxpayers and businesses now face the prospect of costly legal bills fighting over a measure that likely will be found unconstitutional and unenforceable,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.… Continue reading

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ODA announces $23 million for programs in Western Lake Erie Basin

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda announced new assistance programs for producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin funded by the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299 last year.

The bill provides $23.5 million for the 24 soil and water conservation districts located in the Western Lake Erie Basin for nutrient management programs. ODA has already distributed $3.5 million to the Northwest Ohio districts.

“Water quality is a top priority of our administration,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Roughly 3 million Ohioans rely on Lake Erie for their drinking water. These programs are a good step toward promoting better water quality and more will come.”

At the 2019 Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Annual Meeting, Director Pelanda announced plans for the remaining $20 million, to be spread across three new assistance programs set to begin in March.

“The budget that Governor DeWine plans to introduce will demonstrate his administration’s commitment to improving water quality,” Pelanda said. … Continue reading

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Blanchard River Watershed nutrient management update March 3 in Arlington

The Arlington FFA and Arlington FFA Alumni and supporters invite attendees to learn from members of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network about current water quality and nutrient management issues.

Water quality and nutrient management are not optional. Learn about the extensive research being done on the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms and nutrient management regulations. Presenters at the event include Aaron Heilers with the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network, Anthony Stateler with Stateler Family Farms in McComb and Shane Kellogg of Kellogg Farms in Forest.

The event will be held Sunday March 3 at 3:00 p.m. at Arlington Local School Auditorium 336 South Main St. Arlington, OH.

For more about the speakers and the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network visit blancharddemofarms.org/#farmers.… Continue reading

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Meet the comic: The story of Earl Musick, OCJ cartoonist

By Matt Reese

So how exactly does someone get the job of drawing the comic strip for Ohio’s Country Journal? Believe it or not, it started with the FBI.

Earl Musick was very shy as a child, but he loved to draw and make people smile. He was asked to draw some comics for his middle school paper. This early start with comics (somewhat surprisingly) came in handy when Musick started a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation shortly after high school.

“I got hired for the finger printing office, then was an artist and photographer. I did raids and undercover stuff as the photographer and worked with the top 10 most wanted list,” he said. “I worked there full-time for a year. I was stationed in Cleveland but I traveled all over.”

He wanted to get closer to where he grew up in Bucyrus, so Musick got a job with the local post office, eventually serving as postmaster in the area while continuing to do some freelance work for the FBI.… Continue reading

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Work to begin on new 2020 dietary guidelines

To ensure America’s dietary guidance reflects the latest science, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today announced the appointment of 20 nationally recognized scientists to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The independent advisory committee will review scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by the departments and will provide a report on their findings to the secretaries. Their review, along with public and agency comments, will help inform USDA and HHS’ development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).

“USDA is committed to ensuring everything we do is data-driven and based in scientific facts, which is why this expert committee’s work in objectively evaluating the science is of the utmost importance to the departments and to this process,” Perdue said. “The committee will evaluate existing research and develop a report objectively, with an open mind.”

“The scientists we selected to serve on the committee are national leaders in the areas of nutrition and health,” said Alex Azar, HHS Secretary.… Continue reading

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New Lake Erie lawsuit filed against U.S. EPA

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

We can’t say that Lake Erie is back in the news, because lately it hasn’t left the news. However, there is a new lawsuit in federal court that seeks further action from either the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Ohio EPA regarding Lake Erie water quality. Filed on February 7, 2019 by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, this new lawsuit alleges that the U.S. EPA improperly signed off on action taken by the Ohio EPA to designate Lake Erie as an impaired water body without implementing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to restrict discharges such as agricultural runoff. The plaintiffs weren’t necessarily unhappy about the designation, but they were not happy about the lack of a TMDL.

Designating a waterway as impaired indicates low water quality, and triggers requirements to take action to improve water quality.… Continue reading

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