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Don’t put daddy’s toothbrush in the toilet!

By Matt Reese

My wife and I try not to have a long list of silly rules for our children to follow, but sometimes, their actions warrant rules.

Here are a few of the strange rules in Reese family law.

  1. Do not stand on the table. There are clear safety issues when an 18-month old is standing on pretty much anything. Plus, no one wants the feet of anyone (even a cute kid) in, on, or around the food.
  2. Do not unroll toilet paper for any reason. There are, of course, very important reasons why toilet paper needs to be unrolled. But, due to our children’s seemingly insatiable desire to unroll the entire roll onto the floor and around our home on a regular basis, we had to enforce very strict guidelines. For now, mom and dad do the necessary unrolling to prevent an in-house TP party.
  3. Do not pet the dog.
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Don't put daddy's toothbrush in the toilet!

By Matt Reese

My wife and I try not to have a long list of silly rules for our children to follow, but sometimes, their actions warrant rules.

Here are a few of the strange rules in Reese family law.

  1. Do not stand on the table. There are clear safety issues when an 18-month old is standing on pretty much anything. Plus, no one wants the feet of anyone (even a cute kid) in, on, or around the food.
  2. Do not unroll toilet paper for any reason. There are, of course, very important reasons why toilet paper needs to be unrolled. But, due to our children’s seemingly insatiable desire to unroll the entire roll onto the floor and around our home on a regular basis, we had to enforce very strict guidelines. For now, mom and dad do the necessary unrolling to prevent an in-house TP party.
  3. Do not pet the dog.
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Mid-winter weather expectations

By Jim Noel, with the National Weather Service

The trend of below normal temperatures and near or slightly below normal precipitation and near to above normal snowfall will likely persist at least into early February.

The longer-range outlook calls for a change toward normal or slightly wetter than normal conditions later February into March and April with temperatures remaining at or below normal. This is supported by the ongoing La Nina (cooling of the eastern Pacific Oceans waters near the equator) and the negative North Atlantic Oscillation.

However, this trend may support a switch to a warmer and drier summer that we need to monitor.

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Ohio Ag Blogs: Click on Over

First it was Facebook, then Twitter. Now blogs are becoming a way the agriculture community communicates to the public and with each other.

At Acorns for Thought, hog farmer Charles Wildman uses his blog to communicate his views on food production to the public. He says Facebook, Twitter and blogs are all important. With limited characters on Facebook and Twitter, his blog allows for a fuller explanation of his thoughts.

His son Sam Wildman, a student at Ohio State ATI has also started blogging. Reflections from a Country Boy is where he shares his thoughts on issues affecting agriculture and their farm.

United Landmark agronomist Auggie Smith uses his blog to better communicate with his growers and provide up to the minute data on issues affecting the crop in his area. His biggest challenge though? Time. He tries to update his blog regularly, but admits sometimes its hard to find time during the busy growing season.

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Cattle groups may need to stand in the corner

Since remarrying this past summer, my house has become quite a bit busier. With my two kids and my wife’s three children, we now have three boys and two girls between the ages of 6 and 11. As you might guess, things can get a little loud sometimes.

The noise level particularly spikes when one of the kids feels they have been unduly wronged by one of the others. Then the finger pointing and name calling starts, as both parties frantically plead their case and try to blame the other for the sonic boom that has just occurred in the confines of our home.

That’s when my wife, Becky, or I have to step in and calm things down. Perhaps it’s time for someone to be confined to the couch, sent to a room, given a chore or sent to a corner for some calm, quiet time of reflection.

Sadly, the press releases that came through my e-mail this past fall as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and R-CALF USA locked horns over the USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule changes made me feel like I was watching one of the childish episodes that break out periodically in my house.

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Goat cheese processor seeks good sheep dairy producers

By Kyle Sharp

Abbe Turner is by nature an optimist. She was optimistic when she and her husband bought and moved to a Portage County farm in 2002, despite neither of them having a farm background. She was optimistic when she started producing cheese from the milk of her dairy goats at her startup business, Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent, early last year. And she is optimistic that an Ohio sheep dairy industry will develop through an initiative she helped create, so she can begin processing sheep cheeses as well in the near future.

To help emphasize her sunny outlook, her business card for Lucky Penny Farm and Creamery even reads, “CEO, Cheesemaker, Entrepreneur, Optimist.”

When asked why she chose to include “optimist” on her business card, her personality comes out in her tongue-in-cheek response:

“Because ‘fool’ doesn’t look real good to a banker,” Turner said.

So far, her decisions appear to be anything but foolish, as in just 11 months, Lucky Penny Creamery has developed a list of about 55 businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores and other outlets across the nation, that buy her cheeses.

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A Comeback Story for My Kind

Ty Higgins

When I was first hired as an on-air radio personality right out of high school, my Mom, although she would support whatever I chose to do, told me that DJs were a dime a dozen. Now that I am older I understand that even though she broke my heart back then, she didn’t mean to. She was being my Mother, only wanting what was best for me, not believing radio would be a sustainable career path.

I have been very fortunate with my career path over the last 15 years. I have many stories to share and have had many opportunities that I will never forget. With that said, I have seen many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances in the radio industry not have the luck I have had, even though most were far more talented.

It is a tough business, and Mom was absolutely right. There have been days when I told myself I should have listened to her.

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The debate of ethanol and food prices continues

Recent news stories about higher food prices often try to make a connection between food prices and the demand for ethanol, an incorrect assumption on the part of the ethanol opponents that significantly downplays all the impacts and pressures that affect food prices. Studies after the 2008 spike in corn prices help demonstrate this, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

“It’s an outrage to hear the same claims time after time, blaming corn growers and ethanol producers for the rise in food prices,” said Bart Schott, NCGA president. “It’s a rhetoric with no grounding in reality. Our growers are not only producing more corn and meeting all needs, but we are also experiencing some of the same negative factors on their farms, such as higher energy costs, that are driving up food prices around the world.”

Here in the United States, the Congressional Budget Office had already looked into the issue and issued a report in April 2009 that discussed the role of factors such as energy:

“CBO estimates that from April 2007 to April 2008, the rise in the price of corn resulting from expanded production of ethanol contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1% increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index (CPI).

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OCGA and OWGA progressing in unification

The Ohio Corn Growers Association (OCGA) and Ohio Wheat Growers Association (OWGA) have taken steps to unite to better represent the interests of thousands of grain farmers throughout the Buckeye State.

At the Ohio Grains Symposium December 16 in Lima, OCGA and OWGA leaders discussed the process and decision to form a new organization with the goal to advance Ohio’s grains with members.

As a single entity as of Jan. 1, 2011, the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) has positioned itself for the regulation and advancement of domestic and international issues that affect the success of Ohio’s corn and wheat markets, including energy, livestock, trade, environment and transportation issues and relief programs, research and marketing programs.

The new organization is the result of an ongoing relationship between the formerly separate associations that has been fostered with shared staff and joint membership meetings, legislative visits, public campaigns and policy-development strategies.

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2011 income tax cut marks final step in Ohio’s historic tax reform plan

Ohio’s individual income tax rates will fall by more than 4% across the board next year, meaning additional savings for Ohio taxpayers.

But there is a larger historical significance to next year’s rate reductions. They also mark the finish line in one of the most ambitious packages of state tax cuts ever undertaken in Ohio, a multiyear plan that has reduced income tax rates four other times and phased out Ohio’s two largest business taxes.

With next year’s rate change, state income tax rates will be a full 21% lower across the board in 2011 than they were in 2004, the year before the Ohio General Assembly launched the tax reform plan as part of House Bill 66.

The plan, launched during the Taft administration, was embraced by Governor Ted Strickland and has reduced taxes throughout his term as governor. The reforms also included a gradual phase out of local property taxes on business machinery and equipment and a phase out of the state’s corporation franchise tax on profits.

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2011 income tax cut marks final step in Ohio's historic tax reform plan

Ohio’s individual income tax rates will fall by more than 4% across the board next year, meaning additional savings for Ohio taxpayers.

But there is a larger historical significance to next year’s rate reductions. They also mark the finish line in one of the most ambitious packages of state tax cuts ever undertaken in Ohio, a multiyear plan that has reduced income tax rates four other times and phased out Ohio’s two largest business taxes.

With next year’s rate change, state income tax rates will be a full 21% lower across the board in 2011 than they were in 2004, the year before the Ohio General Assembly launched the tax reform plan as part of House Bill 66.

The plan, launched during the Taft administration, was embraced by Governor Ted Strickland and has reduced taxes throughout his term as governor. The reforms also included a gradual phase out of local property taxes on business machinery and equipment and a phase out of the state’s corporation franchise tax on profits.

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Obama signs tax bill that benefits biofuels

Much of agriculture was pleased with the action taken by President Obama and members of Congress on tax legislation that extends the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, the biodiesel tax incentive and provides an important estate tax exemption.

“We are very happy to see the one-year extension of the ethanol blender’s credit and a two year reformed estate tax move,” said National Corn Growers Association president Bart Schott, a corn farmer in Kulm, N.D. “These extensions were among the top priorities for our organization in 2010; failure to renew both would have done much to harm our nation’s rural economy and the future of America’s farms.”

In addition to providing and supporting 400,000 jobs here in the United States, ethanol is an important part of our nation’s energy mix because it reduces dependence on foreign oil and cuts greenhouse gas emissions, Schott added. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that corn ethanol provides up to a 52 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to gasoline.

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House sends tax bill to Obama

The battered biodiesel industry is holding its breath as the long awaited renewal of the tax incentive for the biofuel inches closer to becoming law.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted by a 277 to 148 margin to approve H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. The legislation, which reflects the framework of the tax agreement reached by President Obama and Congress, retroactively extends the biodiesel tax incentive through 2011. The bill will now be sent to the President for signature.

“Reinstatement of the biodiesel tax credit is welcome news for the U.S. biodiesel industry and good news for the nation as a whole,” said Manning Feraci, NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs. “This will undoubtedly help kick-start the domestic biodiesel industry, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of new jobs across the country.”

Biodiesel is a commercially viable, renewable, low carbon diesel replacement fuel that is widely accepted in the marketplace.

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Younger farmers can learn from bad economy

Today’s tough economy gives experienced farmers an opportunity to teach younger farmers planning and decision-making skills they might not learn in good times, a Purdue University agricultural economist says.

Those looking to pass their operation on to next-generation farmers can show them how to plan strategically and make decisions under poor market conditions, said business planning specialist Angela Gloy.

“This type of real-world, real-time education cannot be simulated in the classroom, nor is it necessarily intuitive,” she said. “Good managers will recognize and act upon opportunities to teach the next generation about which cost-saving measures you’re implementing, the trade-offs involved in one choice over another, and the short- and long-run implications behind each decision. In short, you’re teaching how to manage under conditions of not just price volatility but also extremely low price levels.”

One of the financial benefits of a recession is that it can be a time of low interest rates, which helps young people buy into a portion of the farm business if they are prepared.

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Exports strong for beef and pork

October was a very strong month for U.S. red meat exports, according to results compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports achieved their second-highest value of the year at $375.3 million (trailing only June’s $377.6 million), surpassing the September total by 11% and beating October 2009 by an impressive 37%.

Pork export value was third-highest of the year at $407.8 million — trailing only May ($419.3 million) and June ($425.3 million). The October value total was 7% higher than September and 9% higher than October 2009.

Beef export value ahead of 2003’s record pace

The strong showing in October pushed 2010 beef export value to $3.28 billion, surpassing the January-October 2003 total of $3.26 billion. Beef export value finished 2003 with an all-time, single-year record total of $3.86 billion. Compared to 2009, beef export value is up by 28%. In terms of volume, beef exports reached 863,046 metric tons for the year, outpacing 2009 by 16%.

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Limited forage supply adds to beef feeding woes

Heavy spring rains and late summer drought were the perfect storm for the forage issues that now plague beef producers.

Forages are in short supply in some areas and of low quality in others, leaving beef producers to deal with the high prices of alternative feeds to meet the energy and protein needs of their herds, said Ron Lemenager, Purdue Extension beef specialist.

“We’re getting a number of calls from producers who are asking questions about a short forage supply, either because they had to start feeding hay earlier than normal, or because they didn’t get a second or third cutting in during the growing season,” Lemenager said. “Some producers have a carryover of hay from the previous year, but that hay is more weathered and lower quality.”

Many of the producers who started to feed hay early had to do so because the drought wreaked havoc on the pastures where cows were grazing.

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Corn prices looking for direction

December 2010 corn futures have regained more than half of the decline that occurred from Nov. 9 to Nov. 23. Cash prices have recovered even more as basis levels continue to strengthen, said University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

“A number of factors continue to influence corn prices, with the market trying to weigh the negative versus the positive factors. There is some concern about the large, long positions held by both index and managed funds and the possible negative impact of liquidation of some of those positions,” he said.

Such activity could have some short-term impact on price movement, but over a longer period, prices will follow fundamental value.  As is often the case, there is both uncertainty about fundamental factors and conflicting fundamental factors, he added.

“One of the largest uncertainties is the fate of the ethanol blender’s tax credit. That credit is currently at 45 cents per gallon of ethanol blended into the fuel supply, but that credit is set to expire on Jan.

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Slow recovery for the dairy industry

The dairy industry is slowly recovering from low prices and record losses encountered in 2009 and early 2010, a Purdue University agricultural economist said.

“It will take higher prices over an extended period of time for dairy producers to begin to replace equity that was lost in 2009 and early 2010,” said Nicole Olynk.

Typical dairy farms in 2009 lost $350 to $1,000 per cow in equity. Part of the losses were driven by high costs, especially feed and labor, exceeding returns from milk sales and lower value of cows and heifers as dairy replacements, said Olynk and Purdue Extension dairy specialist Mike Schutz. Dairy farms that were better able to control their own forage production and that had more equity, often through owned land, were best positioned to survive such economic loses.

Milk cow prices were at $1,290 at the beginning of 2010, compared with $1,920 a year earlier, although prices are now moving higher along with increasing milk prices, Schutz said.

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Happier holidays with Ohio wines

By Matt Reese

The holidays are here and so are the countless parties and get-togethers with family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances. All of these events can be very fun, but they can also be stressful, especially for the host. The decorations, the preparations, the guest list, the food and the entertainment are plenty to think about. The inclusion of wine can add a whole new set of challenges, but a fine Ohio wine can also make the party.

“All of the holidays and celebrations get people thinking about sparkling wines, ice wines and dessert wines which are great for holiday parties and meals and are also done very well in Ohio,” said Bruce Benedict, with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “Wines are meant for consumption with food and these great wines are even better when they are matched with great food.”

For those who are less than wine savvy, these pairings can be daunting, so Benedict offers some advice on how to dazzle guests and partygoers with Ohio wines.

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