Ohio’s Western Basin of Lake Erie will not be listed as ‘impaired’

Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally rendered a decision on Ohio’s list of impaired waters following several months of delay and two lawsuits filed to compel the EPA to make a decision. (For a background on impaired waters and the two lawsuits, check out our previous blog posts here and here.)   On May 19, 2017, the EPA decided to accept the Ohio EPA’s proposed list of impaired waters for the State of Ohio.  Ohio’s list does not include the open waters in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.   However, the State of Michigan’s list of impaired waters previously approved by the EPA does include the open waters in its portion of the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

The EPA explained that the agency deferred to Ohio’s judgment not to include the open waters of the Western Basin of Lake Erie on the impaired waters list.  “EPA recognizes the State’s ongoing efforts to control nutrient pollution in the Western Basin of Lake Erie,” stated Chris Korleski, EPA’s Region 5 Water Division Director and previously Ohio’s EPA Director.   “EPA understands that Ohio EPA intends to evaluate options for developing objective criteria (e.g., microcystin or other metrics) for use in making decisions regarding the Western Basin for the 2018 list.  EPA expects the development of appropriate metrics, and is committed to working with you on them.”

For now, the EPA appears satisfied with Ohio’s plan for addressing nutrient reductions in Lake Erie’s Western Basin.  It is possible, however, that additional lawsuits could be filed against the EPA in order to reconcile Ohio and Michigan’s different designations of water in the same general area.

Read the EPA’s Approval of Ohio’s Submission of the State’s Integrated Report with Respect to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act here.

Census of Agriculture: Important for Agriculture, Important to You!

Emily Adams, Extension Educator Coshocton County and Chris Bruynis, Extension Educator Ross County

What an exciting and uncertain time to be involved in agriculture! There are several items affecting agriculture, most of which we have little influence over. Recently President Trump announced the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/25/presidential-executive-order-promoting-agriculture-and-rural-prosperity) and that we would remain in NAFTA (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/26/politics/trump-nafta/).  But amidst all the headline news, there is another important item for agriculture that we all can affect. That is the 2017 Census of Agriculture (https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/).

A lot has changed in the last five years since 2012 when the last Census of Agriculture was taken. Much of the federal funding decisions, farm support, and rural development policies are a direct result of the data collected in the Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation. Through the Census of Agriculture, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture, and they can help influence the decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come. By responding to the Census of Agriculture, producers are helping themselves, their communities, and all of U.S. agriculture.

There are some interesting changes coming to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. These include:

  1. Expanded questions about food marketing practices, including the gross value of edible agricultural products sold directly to both consumers and retail markets. In 2012, this section only included yes/no type questions to determine whether an operation marketed food items directly to consumers.
  2. Elimination of specific designations or titles such as principal operator and new/beginning farmer. Removing these designations helps to better capture the roles and contributions of women and new/beginning farmers. To maintain continuity with the principal operator data series in earlier censuses, the 2017 Census of Agriculture retains a principal operator bridge question.
  3. An expanded question about who makes what kind of decisions on the farm. The 2017 Census questionnaire includes functional decision-making categories for each decision maker listed and asks respondents to mark all that apply: day-to-day decisions, land use/crop decisions, livestock decisions, record keeping/financial decisions, and estate planning.

Farmers can voluntarily sign up for the census at www.agcensus.usda.gov by June 30 to make sure their voice is included in the results. Farmers are required to complete the census if selected by the deadline of February 5, 2018. Farmers should begin to look for Census forms in their mailboxes this December. There are also options to complete the Census online. The online form will be more user-friendly in 2017, automatically calculating totals and skipping questions that are not pertinent.

Wayne County Dairy Manure Storage Inventory Survey

by: Rory Lewandowski, Extension Educator Wayne County

In early January 2017, the Wayne County Extension office in partnership with the Wayne County Farm Bureau, Wayne County SWCD and NRCS, the Wayne County Ag Success Team and the Wayne-Ashland Dairy Service Unit, mailed a survey to 339 Wayne County dairy farms to determine the current manure storage capacity on those farms.  Addresses of dairy farms were provided by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and included both Grade A and Grade B milk producers.  The purpose of the survey was to gather base-line information to assess how prepared Wayne County dairy farms are to comply with Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) type of clean water/nutrient management legislation.  Surveys were returned in early February of 2017 and Ohio University Environmental Studies graduate student Janessa Hill tabulated survey responses and prepared summaries of the results.

SB 1 legislation became effective on July 3, 2015 and currently covers the Western Lake Erie Basin and contains specific provisions regarding manure application and prohibitions against application of manure (and granular fertilizer) during winter months and when soils are saturated.  Depending upon who you talk to, it is expected that this type of legislation will move state-wide in the future, possibly within two to five years.   In order to comply with the winter application prohibitions and other manure application provisions, the general consensus of persons who work with manure management and write manure management plans, seems to be that most farms should have 9 to 12 months of manure storage.  The SB 1 law provided medium-sized facilities (200-699 dairy cattle) a year to comply with the regulations.  Small agricultural operations could apply for a two year exemption before compliance.  The entire SB 1 legislation text is available at: http://tiny.cc/OHSenateBill1.  A summary of SB1 legislation and explanation of the legislation written by Peggy Hall, OSU Extension director of the Agricultural &Resource Law program is available on-line at: https://aglaw.osu.edu/blog-tags/manure-application.

The dairy farm manure storage survey was designed to collect information regarding the type of manure storage present on dairy farms along with the storage capacity and typical manure application timing.  Additionally, the survey asked farms to rate the degree of financial hardship that would be experienced if legislation similar to SB 1 was extended to Wayne County and additional manure storage had to be added.

The goal is to use the collected survey information in conversations with legislators, policy makers, and other elected officials to provide a better understanding of the on-farm situation within the county.  It is hoped that this baseline data might help to guide legislators as they craft water quality/nutrient management legislation and avoid unintended consequences for agriculture.   The results of the survey have implications for compliance time frames, environmental considerations and the social fabric of the community.  The information collected regarding the financial cost and hardship that will be incurred by adding additional manure storage has to be considered in any future clean water/nutrient management legislation.

According to Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) statistics, there are 32,000 milk cows in Wayne County.  Surveys mailed back to the Wayne County Extension office represented a total of 14,811 dairy cows or about 46% of the ODA statistic number.   The overall survey return rate was 33%.  The majority of dairy farms who completed the survey indicated the use of both liquid and bedded pack manure storage systems for their milking herd, with bedded pack manure storage the dominant form of manure storage for the heifers and calves.  When asked about a nutrient/manure management plan, 44% of the survey respondents stated they do have a current nutrient and manure management plan and 43% said they did not.  With regard to manure storage capacity, 52% of the responding farms have less than 3 months of liquid manure storage, 36% have 3-6 months of storage, 5% have 7-9 months of storage and only 3% have 10-12 months of storage.   With regard to solid manure storage, survey results indicate that 23% of the responding farms have less than 3 months of storage and 34% have 3-6 months of storage, 14% have 7-9 months of storage and 8% have 10-12 months of storage.

In terms of financial hardship, farms were asked to choose a statement that would best describe their situation if they had to construct additional manure storage to allow 9-12 months of storage capacity.  Approximately 20% of the survey respondents checked “It could not be done in my current dairy situation.  The dairy operation would end.”  Another 40% of the survey respondents checked the statement; “It could be done but at great financial hardship and greatly increasing risk of business failure.”  Another 14% of the respondents checked the statement “It would be done as part of the cost of staying in business.”  In a follow up question, 43% of the respondents stated they would not accept a government program if cost share support was provided to help finance the cost of additional storage to stay in business, while 11% said they would need 50% cost-share financing and 27% said it would require75% cost share financing.

More information about the survey and survey summary documents with results to all the survey questions are available on the OSU Wayne county extension website at: http://go.osu.edu/Waynedairymanuresurvey .

 

4R NUTRIENT STEWARDSHIP IN THE WESTERN LAKE ERIE BASIN

A Descriptive Report of Beliefs, Attitudes and Best Management Practices in the Maumee Watershed of the Western Lake Erie Basin

Prokup, A., Wilson, R., Zubko, C., Heeren, A, and Roe, B. 2017

Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication are threatening Lake Erie, a vital ecological and economic resource in the Great Lakes region. Phosphorus lost through agricultural run-off from the Maumee River Watershed appears to be the greatest contributor to the current problem. To better understand farmers’ perspectives in this region, particularly current nutrient management practices and barriers to implementation of recommended practices, researchers from The Ohio State University’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences conducted a survey of farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin during the winter of 2016.

The majority of farmers (~80%) had great concern for the ecological health of Lake Erie and how they can minimize their farm’s impact on the lake. Similarly, a majority of farmers show a willingness to adopt recommended practices, but there is a small percentage that is currently unwilling to adopt many recommended practices. Although this could reduce the likelihood of positive change in Lake Erie, there is no evidence that these operations are proportionally more responsible for the nutrient loss issues, or that changes in their behavior are key to improving water quality. In fact, around 60 to 90% are willing to consider adopting new practices, and in many cases this potential level of adoption may be enough to achieve the recommended phosphorus reductions for Lake Erie.

Although the current farming population is largely motivated to adopt new practices, there are several significant barriers associated with recently recommended practices. In regards to cover crops, approximately 25 to 40% of respondents were concerned about fall planting windows, interference with spring planting, and/or the short-term costs. Over half of respondents viewed the cost of specialized equipment for subsurface fertilizer placement as too great and that injecting nutrients ran counter to a no-till approach. One-third of respondents also viewed alternatives to broadcasting as taking too much time.

Those willing to adopt recommended practices tend to be more informed about nutrient stewardship from a variety of both private and public sector sources and more concerned about future regulation. Perhaps due to less exposure to nutrient stewardship information, farmers less willing to adopt tended to have lower awareness of 4R principles, concern for environmental issues and nutrient loss, and awareness of state regulatory requirements. For those practices that involve significant financial investments and new technologies there does seem to be a positive effect of farm size and/or income. Applicator training and working with a consultant is often positively associated with adoption. Generally speaking, a belief in the effectiveness of a recommended practice is one of the strongest correlates of adoption. As a result, the best target audience moving forward are individuals who indicate a willingness to change their practices, and tend to be less constrained by potential barriers while sharing some of the same motivations as those who have already adopted these practices. Engaging these individuals in outreach focused on how to implement practices effectively is likely to result in the necessary increases in adoption over time. However, it will be critical that this outreach comes from those sources that are trusted (e.g., crop consultants, Extension personnel), involves some degree of peer to peer learning, and that the opportunities to learn be as personalized and hands-on as possible.

Ohio Legislature is Set to Reconsider CAUV Bill

Written by:  Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The Ohio Legislature is once again considering a bill regarding Ohio’s current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. CAUV permits land to be valued at its agricultural value rather than the land’s market or “highest and best use” value. Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) introduced SB 36 on February 7, 2017. The bill would alter the capitalization rate used to calculate agricultural land value and the valuation of land used for conservation practices or programs. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.

The content of SB 36 closely mirrors the language of a bill meant to address CAUV from the last legislative session: SB 246. Introduced during the 131st General Assembly, SB 246 failed to pass into law. SB 246 proposed alterations to the CAUV formula which are identical to those proposed by the current bill: SB 36. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s report on SB 246, the bill would have proposed changes that would have led to a “downward effect on the taxable value of CAUV farmland.” The likely effect for Ohio farmers enrolled in CAUV would have been a lower tax bill.

Due to the similarity between the two bills, the potential impacts of SB 36 on the CAUV program will likely be comparable to those of the previous bill. The proposed adjustment of the capitalization rate is likely to reduce the tax bill for farmers enrolled in CAUV. More specifically, the bill proposes several changes to the CAUV formula:

  • States additional factors to include in the rules that prescribe CAUV calculation methods. Currently, the rules must consider the productivity of the soil under normal management practices, the average price patterns of the crops and products produced to determine the income potential to be capitalized and the market value of the land for agricultural use. The proposed legislation adds two new factors: typical cropping and land use patterns and typical production costs.
  • Clarifies that when determining the capitalization rate used in the CAUV formula, the tax commissioner cannot use a method that includes the buildup of equity or appreciation.
  • Requires the tax commissioner to add a tax additur to the overall capitalization rate, and that the sum of the capitalization rate and tax additur “shall represent as nearly as possible the rate of return a prudent investor would expect from an average or typical farm in this state considering only agricultural factors.”
  • Requires the commissioner to annually determine the overall capitalization rate, tax additur, agricultural land capitalization rate and the individual components used in computing those amounts and to publish the amounts with the annual publication of the per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type.

To remove disincentives for landowners who engage in conservation practices yet pay CAUV taxes at the same rate as if the land was in production, the proposed legislation:

  • Requires that the land in conservation practices or devoted to a land retirement or conservation program as of the first day of a tax year be valued at the lowest valued of all soil types listed in the tax commissioner’s annual publication of per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type in the state.
  • Provides for recalculation of the CAUV rate if the land ceases to be used for conservation within three years of its original certification for the reduced rate, and requires the auditor to levy a charge for the difference on the landowner who ceased the conservation practice or participation in the conservation program.

To read SB 36, visit this page. For more information on previous CAUV bills, see our previous blog post.

 

Ag Committees are in Place for Ohio’s New Legislative Session

by Peggy Kirk Hall

Senate President Larry Obhof and Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger have made committee assignments for the new session of Ohio’s 132nd General Assembly.  While there are no major changes to committee structure or leadership, the committees contain many new members, including several legislators serving their first terms as legislators.

Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) will again chair the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, with newly elected Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) serving as vice chair and first Senate termer Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) appointed as the ranking minority member.  O’Brien previously served three terms in the House of Representatives, which included a term on its Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

  • Returning from last session’s Agriculture Committee are Senators Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City), Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood).
  • New to the committee are Senators Bob Hackett (R-London), previous House member Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Frank Larose (R-Hudson), Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township).

Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) will again lead the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee with Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) serving as vice  chair for the first time and Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) returning as the ranking minority member.

  • Representatives Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren), Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton), Michael Sheehy (D-Toledo) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) will return to the committee.
  • New to both the House of Representatives and the committee are Representatives Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township), Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Dick Stein (R-Norwalk).
  • New to the committee are Representatives Candice Keller (R-Middletown), David Leland (R-Columbus) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), along with Former Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina).

Neither committee has a meeting scheduled at this time.  Follow the committees’ work in the new legislative session at https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/.

 

 

 

USDA Makes it Easier to Transfer Land to the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers

DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 29, 2016 – Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam today announced that beginning Jan. 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer an early termination opportunity for certain Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts, making it easier to transfer property to the next generation of farmers and ranchers, including family members. The land that is eligible for the early termination is among the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP.

This change to the CRP program is just one of many that USDA has implemented based on recommendations from the Land Tenure Advisory Subcommittee formed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2015. The subcommittee was asked to identify ways the department could use or modify its programs, regulations, and practices to address the challenges of beginning farmers and ranchers in their access to land, capital and technical assistance.

“The average age of principal farm operators is 58,” said Baccam.  “So, land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land is an increasingly important issue for the future of agriculture and a priority for USDA. Access to land remains the biggest barrier for beginning farmers and ranchers.  This announcement is part of our efforts to address some of the challenges with transitioning land to beginning farmers.”

Baccam made the announcement while touring the Joe Dunn farm in Warren County, located in central Iowa near Carlisle. Dunn is the father-in-law to Iowa native and former Marine Aaron White, who with his wife, are prospective candidates for the early termination program.  Baccam was joined by Farm Service Agency Iowa State Executive Director John Whitaker when meeting with Dunn and White.

“The chance to give young farmers a better opportunity to succeed when starting a farming career makes perfect sense,” said Baccam. “There are Conservation Reserve Program acres that are rested and ready to be productive, an original goal of CRP. The technical teams at USDA will tell us which ones can terminate from the program with little impact on the overall conservation efforts. When they do, we’ll be ready to help beginning farmers like military veteran Aaron White.”

Normally if a landowner terminates a CRP contract early, they are required to repay all previous payments plus interest.  The new policy waives this repayment if the land is transferred to a beginning farmer or rancher through a sale or lease with an option to buy.  With CRP enrollment close to the Congressionally-mandated cap of 24 million acres, the early termination will also allow USDA to enroll other land with higher conservation value elsewhere.

“Starting the next generation of farmers and ranchers out with conservation and stewardship in mind is another important part of this announcement,” Baccam said.  “The land coming out of CRP will have priority enrollment opportunities with USDA’s working lands conservation programs through cooperation between the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

Acres terminated early from CRP under these land tenure provisions will be eligible for priority enrollment consideration into the CRP Grasslands, if eligible; or the Conservation Stewardship Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program, as determined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

According to the Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land survey, conducted by USDA in 2014, U.S. farmland owners expect to transfer 93 million acres to new ownership during 2015-2019. This represents 10 percent of all farmland across the nation. Details on the early termination opportunity will be available starting on Jan. 9, 2017, at local USDA service centers. For more information about CRP and to find out if your acreage is eligible for early contract termination, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov/.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-results.

Western Ohio 2017 Agriculture Outlook Meeting

by Sam Custer, Extension Educator

What does 2017 look like for Western Ohio farmers and agricultural businesses?

Learn what to expect this year during an agricultural outlook meeting February 3 at noon presented by agriculture economists and swine specialist with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

The presentation is part of the 2017 Agricultural Policy and Outlook series offered by The Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the college. The meeting is being hosted by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Educators from Auglaize, Darke, Miami, Mecer and Shelby Counties.

The meeting is partially sponsored by Farm Credit Mid America Merchants Bank of Indiana, Minster Bank, Second National Bank, The Andersons and Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net.

The meeting will feature presentations on matters the agricultural community should expect in 2017, including policy changes, key issues and market behavior with respect to farm, food and energy resources, and the environment, said Sam Custer, OSU Extension, Darke County Educator.

“Participants can listen and learn from Ohio State faculty as they discuss the opportunities and challenges for the agricultural sector as well as interpret the impact of recent policy decisions,” Custer said.

Speakers for the outlook meeting are:

Dale Richer, State Swine Specialist, OSU Extension

Carl Zulauf, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University

Barry Ward, Asst. Professor, OSU Extension, Production Business Management

David Marrison, Assoc. Professor, OSU Extension

What we’ll cover:

  • Ohio Swine Production Update
  • Speculation on President Trump’s Policy Agenda
  • Examining Land Values, Cash Rents, Input Costs & Potential Crop Profitability in 2017
  • What Are Grain Markets Telling Us?
  • Farm & Estate Tax Laws – Planning for an Uncertain Future

“These presentations will provide excellent information and insights that will benefit farmers and agricultural leaders as they make plans for 2017 and beyond,” Custer said.

The meeting will be held at the Romer’s Party Room, 118 East Main Street, Greenville, Ohio.

Registration for the meeting is $20 (includes lunch) by January 27.  A registration flyer can be downloaded at http://go.osu.edu/2017darkeagoutlook.

For more information about the meeting, contact Custer at custer.2@osu.edu or 937.548.5215.

 

For more detailed information, visit the Darke County OSU Extension web site at www.darke.osu.edu, the OSU Extension Darke County Facebook page.

Ag Outlook and Policy Meeting to be held on February 2 in Wooster, Ohio

So what’s ahead for farmers and Ag businesses in 2017?  OSU Extension invites producers to attend the Ag Outlook and Policy meeting on Thursday, February 2, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Fisher Auditorium OARDC located at 1680 Madison Avenue in Wooster, Ohio. A wide variety of experts will be on hand to share their agricultural outlook for 2017.

The following presentations will be made during the program:

Speculation on President Trump’s Policy Agenda and What Are Grain Markets Telling Us?- By: Carl Zulauf, Ag Policy Specialist and Professor Emeritus from The Ohio State University will provide “

Dairy Economic Update- By: Dianne Shoemaker: OSU Extension Dairy Production Economics Field Specialist

Beef Cattle Outlook- By: John Grimes: Extension Beef Program Specialist

Ten Legal Trends That Could Change Agriculture- Peggy Hall: OSU Extension Ag Law and Resources Program

Crop Budget and Cropland Rental Update- Rory Lewandowski: Extension Educator Wayne County

Farm & Estate Tax Laws – Planning for an Uncertain Future- David Marrison: Extension Educator Ashtabula County

This program is being sponsored by OSU Extension, Farmers National Bank, and Farm Credit.  The registration cost is $15 per person with the deadline of January 26, 2017. Make checks payable to OSU Extension. Please send checks and registration to: OSU Extension- Wayne County, 428 W. Liberty Street – Suite 12, Wooster, Ohio 44691.  More information can be obtained by calling the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722 or email Rory Lewandowski at Lewandowski.11@osu.edu

ARC County Looking Forward: Making County of Payment Choice for 2016-2018

By: Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension Educator, Ross County

Farmers with the administration of their farms consolidated at one FSA office may want to examine their ARC-CO projected payments for 2016 – 2018. If no decision to change is made, ARC-CO payments will be calculated on the average yields for the administrative FSA office county, regardless of where the land is physically located. Earlier in the year, FSA announced that farmers could elect to have the 2014 and/or the 2015 ARC-CO payments calculated on the county in which the land is physically located.  For some farms this was financially beneficial. However, do not expect 2016 to be like previous years since the high yields that reduced payments in a few locations (Defiance County 2014, and Ross County 2015) are now included in the formula to determine the payment. To read the full article go to Farm Program Payments Revisited July 2016