What to do if you can’t plant a cash crop

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Growers who opt not to plant corn or soybeans this year because of consistently wet fields would be best off not leaving those fields bare, according to an expert at The Ohio State University.

A bare field is a vulnerable field, subject to losing its valuable, nutrient-rich layer of topsoil because wind can blow the topsoil away and rain can wash it away, said Sarah Noggle, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).  

And a field without a crop is an open invitation for weeds to take over, making it harder to prevent weeds the next time a crop is planted there, Noggle said. Continue reading

Haying and Grazing on Prevented Planting Acres – Update

From Ben Brown

Program Manager- Farm Management Program
College of Food, Agricultural, & Environmental Sciences

Some of you may have already seen this from a little earlier- but under prevented planting rules, a cover crop planted on eligible acres cannot be harvested for grain and any haying or grazing on prevented plant acres has to happen on or after November 1.

Earlier today in a news release here, the Risk Management Agency announce that for 2019 only they will allow haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented plant acres from September 1 and on and not penalty on insurance indemnities. Harvesting for grain still impacts your prevented plant indemnities and your historical actual production history for future crop insurance premiums and guarantees. Cover crops used for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres are to be treated the same way as haying and grazing for 2019.

Below is a table to use to estimate the impact on prevented planting payments determined by when the producer planted the cover crop and when he or she intends to hay or graze the cover crop. This is for 2019 only.

The other thing RMA did today is announce that there will some counties across the country that will have an extension on the crop reporting date of July 15th. The Farm Service Agency has not released a list of counties that are eligible for that.

Things that were not covered in the press conference and still are not clarified:

  • What is considered a “potentially harvestable crop for minimal MFP payment purposes”
  • RMA did not make a statement on the use of the harvest price instead of the projected price in prevented planting indemnities.
  • RMA did not make a statement on whether certain counties will be eligible for a higher prevented planting guarantee under the federal disaster bill.

Using Native Warm-Season Grasses in a Grazing System

•Workshop includes a pasture walk to view native warm-season grass pastures at Millstone Creek Farm.

•Why use native warm-season grasses in your grazing system?

•Native warm-season grass establishment – Managing to maintain vigor and productivity.

•Animal performance and economics

•Warm-Season annuals and cover crop options.

For information and registration details for this free event click here: Hillsboro OH Producer Workshop Flyer

Is your will clear? Tips for minimizing ambiguities

Farm Office Blog

Ohio Ag Law Blog — Is your will clear? Tips for minimizing ambiguities

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Written by Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Have you ever sent an email or text message that seemed perfectly clear to you, but the recipient read it differently than you had intended?  It happens all the time in everyday life.  We know what we mean in our head, but the message we send contains ambiguities.  While we can hopefully fix ambiguities in an email or text message quickly, wills can present a different story.

Once a person has passed away, fixing an ambiguity in a will is not easy because the best person to ask about intent cannot be called to testify.  Unfortunately, many families learn about the problems posed by ambiguities the hard way.

Take a recent example from Mahoning County.  In April, an Ohio appellate court upheld a probate court’s decision on how to distribute the assets of a Salem area farmer (“the farmer”).  This happened five years after the farmer passed away, and after two appeals of his estate.  He had a will, but it contained an ambiguity that resulted in years of litigation and delayed closure.

His will made one specific bequest, and the rest of his property would go into a general pot for his named beneficiaries to divide among themselves as they or the executor saw fit.  The specific bequest read, “I give, devise, and bequeath to my brother […], the real estate at […] together with all contents of said real estate, if owned by me at the time of my death.”  The court had no problem with the real estate because the will provided an address; however, what did the will mean by “all contents of said real estate”?

At the time of the farmer’s death, the real estate contained a residence, family heirlooms, valuables, household goods, farm equipment, and vehicles.  The brother argued that the specific bequest included farm equipment and vehicles because of their physical presence on the real estate.  The general beneficiaries disagreed, believing that the bequest applied to pieces of personal property like heirlooms within the house.  Looking only at the will, the probate court agreed with the general beneficiaries.  The brother appealed the decision.

The appellate court viewed “all contents of said real estate” as ambiguous, and sent the case back to the probate court to re-examine the will.  The law generally disfavors testimony about what a decedent intended because the law assumes that the will provides the best evidence of what the decedent wanted.  When a court finds an ambiguity in a will, it may consider evidence beyond the will, such as testimony or other documents; however, the law considers this evidence less authoritative because it is not directly from the decedent.

After the first appeal, the brother and attorney who drafted the farmer’s will testified in probate court about conversations with the farmer before he passed away.  The brother claimed that conversations with his brother about ideas to grow the farm meant that the farm equipment should go to him; however, the attorney claimed that the farmer intended only for the brother to receive family heirlooms within the house.  The court believed the farmer’s attorney, and again decided that the specific bequest did not include the equipment.

For a second time, the brother appealed the probate court’s decision.  This time the appellate court was satisfied with the probate court’s actions and upheld the probate court’s interpretation of the will.  Click HERE to read the court’s opinion, which is cited as Bogar v. Baker, 2019-Ohio-1762 (7th Dist.).

It took the family in the Bogar case five years to have a legal determination of what their loved one meant in his will.  One clause resulted in lots of costly litigation, not to mention the stresses on the family.

No family wants a contentious probate.  Losing a loved one is hard enough without having to go to court to fully litigate the contents of a will.  Fortunately, this is a problem that can be avoided, or at least minimized, with an effective plan.

Here are some tips to minimize ambiguities in your will:

  • Identify who you want to have specific pieces of your real and personal property.  For personal items such as family heirlooms, antiques, and art, you may leave a directive that names specifically which person receives what items.
  • Read through your will.  Does it make sense to you?  Does it sound like what you want to happen?
  • Consider showing your will to your executor and ask what he or she thinks your will says.  How would the executor carry out your will if you were gone today?  If he or she says something that you did not intend, you can still fix your will to more clearly align it with your wishes.
  • If you are concerned about beneficiaries challenging your will, you can include a no-contest clause that gives the executor final authority to interpret how to distribute your estate and penalize beneficiaries who challenge that distribution.  When included in a will, these clauses often prevent a beneficiary who challenges a will from receiving any property from the estate.

These tips do not guarantee a challenge-free probate process, but can help make your will as clear as possible.  If a question about your intent would still arise, having a couple of witnesses who can attest to your wishes will help the court get as close to your wishes as possible.  However, this requires you to tell each of these people the same thing and in a clear manner.  If you make any changes, you need to communicate that to your confidants.

Stay tuned in the next couple of months for new resources from our team about estate and business transition planning.  Until then, take a moment to review your estate plan!

Continue reading