Farmers Have One Month to Decide Whether to Stay in Syngenta Litigation

by: Peggy Kirk Hall
Asst. Professor and Field Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law
College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Department of Extension

Farmers are receiving a lot of attention from law firms these days, from video mailers to offers of free consultations, dinners, hats and more.  The purpose of these marketing efforts is to entice farmers away from participating in the current class action lawsuit against Syngenta.  Law firms want farmers to exclude themselves from the class action litigation and participate in individual lawsuits their firms would bring against Syngenta.  With a deadline of April 1 looming, farmers must decide whether to remain in or step away from the class action lawsuit.

The class action lawsuit, known as “In re Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation,” is pending before the U.S. District Court in Kansas.  It is one of two major lawsuits regarding corn rejected by China in 2013 because China had not yet approved Syngenta’s Duracade and Viptera brands of genetically-modified corn.  The lawsuit consolidated hundreds of similar federal court cases that all claimed that Syngenta should be liable for the drop in corn prices that followed China’s rejections because Syngenta stated that it had obtained all necessary regulatory approvals for Duracade and Viptera, but instead released the seed before receiving China’s approval.

Class Certification

Last September, the court certified the litigation as a class action lawsuit, which allows the case to commence on behalf of all class members.  Any farmer that fits within the class definitions is automatically included in the lawsuit and does not have to pursue individual litigation against Syngenta.  The court established a nationwide class of “producers,” defined as any person or entity listed as a producer on an FSA-578 form filed with the USDA who priced corn for sale after November 18, 2013 and who did not purchase Viptera or Duracade corn seed (farmers who used Syngenta’s seed have different legal claims).  The nationwide class is for producers bringing claims under federal law.  The court also certified eight state classes for producers bringing claims under state laws, including Ohio.  Syngenta appealed the class certification, but the Tenth District Court of Appeals denied the appeal.

Ohio farmers who fit the definition of “producers” are now automatically members of both the nationwide and Ohio classes.  This means that every Ohio producer can receive a share of any award or settlement that results from the litigation, with required documentation.  However, Ohio producers may choose to exclude themselves from or “opt out” of their classes and bring their own individual actions against Syngenta.  The district court required attorneys for the class action suit to notify all potential producers of the lawsuit and of a producer’s right to be excluded from the litigation.   A producer must send an exclusion request by April 1, 2017, following the process for exclusion stated in the court’s order, available here.

Pros and Cons of Staying in the Class

A major benefit of remaining in the class action lawsuit is convenience.  Class members in the lawsuit have no responsibility for the proceedings, which falls upon the attorneys who represent the entire class.  However, convenience comes at the cost of deferring decision making authority and losing a share of the award or settlement to court-ordered attorney fees, although class members may file objections to such decisions.  Exclusion from the class gives producers freedom to pursue their own actions, which will likely lead to a stronger role in decision making and the ability to negotiate attorney fees.  Exclusion also allows a farmer who may not agree with the litigation on principal to dissociate from the lawsuit.

What’s Next?

The court has scheduled “bellwether” cases in the lawsuit, which will go to trial in June.  Bellwether cases are chosen to be representative of the class.  Allowing these cases to go to trial gives an indication of how the litigation will play out—the strength of each side, how juries react and how the law applies to the situation.   Upon completion of the bellwether cases, both sides should be better able to decide whether to settle the lawsuit or continue with litigation.

The U.S. District Court’s website for the Syngenta class action lawsuit is http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/syngenta-ag-mir162-corn-litigation/

 

 

 

Northeast Ohio Small Farm Conference to be held on March 25 in Massillon

by Rory Lewandowski, Wayne County Extension Educator

The 2017 Northeast Ohio “Living Your Small Farm Dream” small farm conference will be held on Saturday, March 25 at the RG Drage Career Center in Massillon located at 2800 Richville Dr. SW Massillon, 44646.  The conference is a program of the OSU Extension Small Farm Program and will provide farm owners and landowners with the opportunity to learn more about skills useful on a small farm, how to make their small farms work better, expand their operations, or gather ideas on how to utilize rural acreage.

Participants will choose from more than 25 different sessions offered over 4 breakout sessions during the day.  General topic tracks include horticulture production, livestock and aquaculture, small farm management, natural resources, marketing and selling.  Presenters include OSU Extension specialists and educators as well as USDA agency personnel, and area farmer entrepreneurs.  The trade show represents industries, businesses, services and organizations that provide products or services utilized on a small farm or rural property.

A sampling of some of the topics that will be covered at the conference includes:

  • Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance and Operation
  • Raising sheep and goats
  • Grass-fed Beef Production
  • Fruit tree pruning
  • Hobby Maple Syrup Production
  • Fruit Tree and Small Fruit Disease Management and Prevention
  • Micro Greens Production
  • Vegetable Production and Season Extension with Tunnels
  • Using and calibrating hand held sprayers on the farm
  • Growing Shitake mushrooms
  • Selling eggs, poultry, produce and cottage foods
  • Marketing Meat Goats
  • Renting and Leasing Farmland
  • Renewable Energy
  • Small Farm Tax Issues
  • Aquaculture Opportunities
  • Vegetable Disease Diagnostics

The Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance and Operation topic as well as the Vegetable Production and Season Extension with Tunnels are both super sessions that extend over two break-out session time periods.  The vegetable production and season extension with tunnels session will actually start at the OARDC high tunnels in Wooster and then move to the RG Drage Center for the in-door portion of the session.  Participants may elect to do only the Wooster part, only the RG Drage Center part or both parts of this topic.

The conference begins with registration at 8:00 am, and an opening general session at 9:00 am.  The conference concludes at approximately 3:45 pm following the final breakout session.  Registration cost is $60 per person, which includes lunch and morning refreshments.  The registration deadline is March 17.  For those who are interested in attending both the Women in Agriculture conference (http://agnr.osu.edu/events/east-ohio-women-agriculture-conference-0) at the same location on March 24 plus the small farm conference on March 25 there is a discounted registration fee of $100 to attend both conferences.  Student discounts are also available.

A conference brochure and registration form along with descriptions of all the breakout sessions as well as on-line registration is available on the OSU Extension Small Farm Program web site at: http://agnr.osu.edu/small-farm-programs .  Questions can also be directed to the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722.

 

The Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit: What’s Happened, What’s Next?

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

The Board of Trustees of the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) brought a lawsuit against thirteen Iowa drainage districts.  DMWW is the biggest water provider in Iowa, serving the largest city, Des Moines, and the surrounding area. Drainage districts were first created in Iowa in the 1800s to drain wetlands and allow for agriculture in those areas.  In Iowa, the counties are in charge of drainage districts.  Individual landowners can tile their land so that it drains water to the ditches, pipes, etc. that make up the counties’ drainage districts.  Eventually, that water ends up in Iowa’s rivers.  The thirteen drainage districts being sued by DMWW are located in the Raccoon River watershed in Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun counties.  DMWW is located downstream from the drainage districts in question.

Background of the Lawsuit

On March 16, 2015, the Board of Trustees for the DMWW filed a complaint against the thirteen drainage districts in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division.  DMWW alleged that the drainage districts did not act in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and provisions of the Iowa Code because they did not secure the applicable permits to discharge nitrates into the Raccoon River.  In order to serve its customers, DMWW uses the Raccoon River as part of its water supply.

DMWW has to meet maximum contaminant levels prescribed under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Nitrate is a contaminant with a maximum allowable level of 10 mg/L.  In its complaint, DMWW cited record levels of nitrate in water from the Raccoon River watershed in recent years.  DMWW alleged that the nitrate problem is exacerbated by the “artificial subsurface drainage system infrastructure…created, managed, maintained, owned and operated by” the thirteen drainage districts.  DMWW alleged that the drainage district infrastructure—“pipes, ditches, and other conduits”—are point sources.  DMWW points to agriculture—row crops, livestock production, and spreading of manure, as a major source of nitrate pollution.

DMWW also cited a number of costs associated with dealing with nitrates, including the construction of facilities that remove nitrates, the operation of those facilities, and the cost associated with acquiring permits to discharge the removed waste.  In their complaint, they generally asked the court to make the drainage districts reimburse them for their cleanup costs, and to make the drainage districts stop discharging pollutants without permits.

All together, DMWW filed ten counts against the drainage districts.  In addition to their claim that the drainage districts had violated the CWA and similarly, Iowa’s Chapter 455B, DMWW also alleged that the continued nitrate pollution violated a number of other state and federal laws.  DMWW maintained that the pollution was a public, statutory, and private nuisance, trespassing, negligence, a taking without just compensation, and a violation of due process and equal protection under the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions.  Finally, DMWW sought injunctive relief from the court to enjoin the drainage districts to lessen the amount of nitrates in the water.  In many of the counts, DMWW asked the court for damages to reimburse them for their costs of dealing with the pollution.

On May 22, 2015, the defendants, the thirteen drainage districts, filed their amended answer with the court.   On January 11, 2016, the district court filed an order certifying questions to the Iowa Supreme Court.  In other words, the district court judge submitted four questions of state law to the Iowa Supreme Court to be answered before commencing the federal trial.  The idea behind this move was that the highest court in Iowa would be better equipped to answer questions of state law than the district court.

Iowa Supreme Court Decision

The Iowa Supreme Court filed its opinion containing the answers to the four state law questions on January 27, 2017.  All of the questions were decided in favor of the drainage districts.  The court answered two questions related to whether the drainage districts had unqualified immunity (complete protection) from the money damages and equitable remedies (actions ordered by the court to be taken or avoided in order to make amends for the harm caused) requested by DMWW.  Both were answered in the affirmative—the court said that Iowa legislation and court decisions have, throughout history, given drainage districts immunity.  Iowa law has long found the service drainage districts provide—draining swampy land so that it could be farmed—to be of great value to the citizens of the state.  To that end, the law has been “liberally construed” to promote the actions of drainage districts.  What is more, judicial precedent in the state has repeatedly found that drainage districts are not entities that can be sued for money damages because they are not corporations, and they have such a limited purpose—to drain land and provide upkeep for that drainage.  The law has further prohibited receiving injunctive relief  (obtaining a court order to require an action to be taken or stopped), from drainage districts.  Instead, the only remedy available to those “claim[ing] that a drainage district is violating a duty imposed by an Iowa statute” is mandamus.  Mandamus allows the court to compel a party to carry out actions that are required by the law.  In this case, those requirements would be draining land and the upkeep of the drainage system.

The second two questions considered by the court dealt with the Iowa Constitution.  The court determined whether or not DMWW could claim the constitutional protections of due process, equal protection, and takings.  They also answered whether DMWW’s property interest in the water could even be “the subject of a claim under…[the] takings clause.”  The court answered “no” to both questions, and therefore against DMWW.  Their reasoning was that both DMWW and the drainage districts are subdivisions of state government, and based on numerous decisions in Iowa courts, “one subdivision of state government cannot sue another…under these clauses.”  Additionally, the court found that “political subdivisions, as creatures of statute, cannot sue to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes.”  Consequently, they reasoned that the pollution of the water and the resulting need to remove that pollution did “not amount to a constitutional violation” under Iowa law.  The court also found that since the water in question was not private property, the takings claim was not valid.  A takings claim only applies to when the government takes private property.  What is more, the court added that regardless of its status as a public or private body, DMWW was not actually deprived of any property—they still had the ability to use the water.  Therefore, the Iowa Supreme Court answered all four state law questions in the drainage districts’ favor, and against DMWW.

What’s next?

The Iowa Supreme Court found that the questions of state law favored the drainage districts, but that is not necessarily the end of this lawsuit.  Now that the questions of state law are answered, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, can decide the questions of federal law.  If any of the numerous motions for summary judgment are not granted to the drainage districts, a trial to decide the remaining questions is set for June 26, 2017.  The questions left for the district court to decide include a number of U.S. Constitutional issues.

One of these issues is whether the drainage districts’ discharge of nitrates into the water constitutes a “taking” of DMWW’s private property for a public use under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.   Another issue is whether the drainage districts’ state-given immunity infringes upon DMWW’s constitutional rights of due process, equal protection, and just compensation.  An important federal law question that also remains to be decided is whether the drainage districts are “point sources” that require a permit to discharge pollutants under the CWA.

How will the outcome affect other states?

Either outcome in this lawsuit will have implications for the rest of the country.  For example, if the district court sides with DMWW on all of the questions, it could open the floodgates to potential lawsuits against drainage districts and other similar entities around the country for polluting water.  Municipal and other users of the water could assert an infringement of their constitutional rights, including taking without just compensation.  Furthermore, if drainage districts are found to be “point sources,” it could mean greater costs of permitting and cleanup for drainage districts and other state drainage entities.  Those costs and additional regulations could be passed onto farmers within the watershed.  As a result, farmers and water suppliers around the country will closely follow the district court’s decisions on the remaining questions in the case.

All of the court documents and decisions concerning this lawsuit, as well as additional articles and blog posts on the topic can be found here.  Additional reading on the subject from the Des Moines Register can be found here and here.

 

Law Fellows Join OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program

OSU Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program welcomes Ellen Essman and Chris Hogan as the program’s first Law Fellows.  The new positions are the result of OSU’s partnership in the Agricultural & Food Law Consortium, a multi-institutional collaboration designed to expand the delivery of timely and objective agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community at local, state, regional, and national levels.

Law Fellow Ellen Essman is a 2014 graduate of Drake University Law School, where she received a Juris Doctor with a certificate in Food and Agricultural Law.  She is also a 2011 graduate of The Ohio State University, having earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Natural Resources Management.  Ellen grew up on a farm in Pickaway County, Ohio and was very involved in 4-H and FFA as a student at Westfall Local Schools.

Ellen’s legal research projects will include a comparative analysis of state approaches to nutrient management regulation and legal barriers to entry in direct marketing of foods.  Ellen will also be responsible for general research and outreach on food law, environmental law and policy and transportation laws for agriculture.

Law Fellow Chris Hogan is a recent graduate of West Virginia University College of Law, where he received his Juris Doctor in 2016.  An Ohio native, Chris earned his B.A.in History with a minor in Agribusiness from The Ohio State University in 2012.  While an undergraduate student, Chris coordinated a shale gas landowner education grant for the Agricultural & Resource Law Program.  The son of OSU Extension Educators, Chris graduated from Carrollton High School and gained a strong interest in agriculture through 4-H and time working on Christmas tree farms in eastern Ohio.

Chris will be responsible for several legal research projects, including an examination of Limited Liability Company (LLC) statutes across the nation, the use of LLCs for agriculture and a comparative analysis of property tax assessment laws for agricultural land in the Midwestern farm states.  Chris will also work on outreach projects in landowner liability, property law, business organizations, taxation, and estate planning.

For more information about the Agricultural & Food Law Consortium, visit http://nationalaglawcenter.org/consortium/.   Information from OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program is available at http://aglaw.osu.edu.

2017 Tax Outlook- The Truth is in the Detail

By David Marrison, Extension Educator

With all the changes in Washington, we at OSU Extension have gotten a lot of questions on what may be in store for tax reform n 2017?   Most of the experts are saying we will see the most comprehensive tax reform since the tax reforms of 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.

Some of these proposed tax changes could happen while others will just be fodder for talk shows and columns like this one.  Given the shift of control to the Republican side of the aisle, it is wise to look at the “A Better Way” report released by Speaker Paul Ryan last summer for some potential tax reforms.  For those who want more insight, the complete report can be found at: http://abetterway.speaker.gov/_assets/pdf/ABetterWay-Tax-PolicyPaper.pdf.

So let’s peak into the crystal ball…..

Estate Tax- At the beginning of January, House Resolution 198 titled the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017” was introduced into Congress and it currently sits in the Ways & Means Committee (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/198).  This bill is seeking to eliminate the federal estate tax.  This is one area where I caution us to be careful of what you wish for!  On the outside this may look like a good move but in the long run it could mean higher taxes for farmers and small businesses.

Currently, Americans can pass on $5,490,000 to their heir(s) tax free when they die.  The federal estate tax law also includes portability to a spouse which essentially means as a couple we can pass on a combined $10.98 million tax free to our heirs.  Even better, Ohio, led by Governor Kasich, repealed the Ohio Estate tax in 2013. So, if your estate is less than $5.49 million as an individual or $10.98 million as a married couple you should have very little concern in this area.  And given that less than 0.2 percent of all estates are subject to federal estate tax each year, should this really be on the chopping block?

So what am I concerned about?  The introduced bill has very little in the way of detail.  And the detail will be important.  One item that could disappear if the estate tax is eliminated is the ability for heirs to “step-up” the value of the inherited assets to its current market value at death.  This could be a significant loss to most farming operations.

Again, the detail in the Repeal Act will be important.  It has been suggested a complete repeal of the estate tax could pave way for a capital gains tax collection at death.  So imagine your heirs having to pay a 20% capital gain tax on the assets from your estate when you die.  For a $2.5 million dollar farm in Ohio, this would mean $500,000 in taxes versus $0 under our current system.  Ouch!  Be careful what you wish for as the truth will be in the detail!  We need to know what a repeal of the federal estate tax actually means.

Complete Expensing of Equipment & Buildings- The administration is also advocating for businesses to be able to completely write-off the expense of any building or equipment in the year of its purchase instead of recovering its value through a depreciation schedule.  This too could have some unattended consequences.  Again, the truth will be in the detail.

I think it matters very little on how we recapture the cost of these purchases. We have used Accelerated Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 for fifteen years to recapture the cost of capital purchases quicker.  My main concern is that complete expensing could cause a Net Operating Loss.  This could lead to the farm family not paying anything into Social Security and Medicare or at such a low level that it would affect their retirement years.  So while it may look good in the short term, without changes to how we pay into Social Security, it could lead to farmers not having enough eligible quarters to retire or be covered under Medicare.  Again, be careful for what you wish for as the truth will be in the detail.

Border Adjustment Tax (BAT)- There has been a lot of chatter on the potential impact of implementing a border adjustment tax or BAT.  This tax would be a huge change in the way we do business as Americans.  Currently, products shipped overseas bear the cost of income tax where imported products don’t.  In short, it could be considered a tariff without being called such.  It would be a huge revenue source for the government and would promote domestic production.  It is similar to the Value Added Tax used by many of our trading partners. The BAT along coupled with the proposed reductions in the tax rates for businesses should be a major catalyst for businesses here in the United States.

So, how will the BAT impact agriculture?  More specifically, how will it affect our trade relations especially with the top three international buyers of agricultural exports- Canada, China, and Mexico?   I think most sectors of the economy will be weighing in on the BAT issue.  Many retailers are very opposed to a border tax as a large percentage of the products they sell are imported.  For agriculture, it is anticipated it would add 10-15% to some of the costs of our inputs such as diesel fuel and to other inputs such as fertilizer and equipment.  The BAT debate is going to be fascinating to watch.  Make sure to keep asking your legislators how it will impact agriculture!

Summary- My recommendation is not to fall asleep on policy and tax reform in 2017.  Be engaged, ask questions and ask how it will impact your operation and our entire industry in the short term as well as long term.

 

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/.

 

 

 

Ohio State University Extension Announces Two Upcoming Conferences to Help Small Farm Owners

by Tony Nye, Extension Educator

OSU Extension’s Small Farm Program announces two upcoming small farm conferences to be held in March 2107. These conferences are designed for small farm owners wanting to learn more about how to make their farms work better for them.  Through the many topics offered we hope we can help landowners expand their operations or, help them identify ways to more efficiently utilize their acreage.  Land owners can attend workshops and presentations on these issues and more during the two conferences: “Opening Doors to Success” and “Living Your Small Farm Dream”.

The two conferences, combined with a trade show, are set up to help participants learn tips, techniques and methods for diversifying their opportunities into successful new enterprises and markets as a way to improve economic growth and development on their farms.

Through the conferences, we try to give participants a smorgasbord of ideas that may interest them and opportunities to learn in-depth about an issue, gain resources, and study how to finance a new venture. Although similar in content, the two conferences are not set up to contain the same sessions nor are they located in the same location.

The “Opening Doors to Success” Conference and Trade Show will be held March 10-11, 2017 at the Wilmington College Campus, in Wilmington, Ohio. This conference will kick off Friday afternoon with two really neat hands-on workshops focusing on Poultry Production and Beekeeping for the Beginner.

The Poultry Production program will feature Andy Schneider, Editor in Chief of the Chicken Whisperer magazine as well as other presenters focusing on laying and meat production, health and bio security, processing, rules and regulations.

The Introduction to Beekeeping program will be led by Amanda Bennett, the Miami County Extension Educator for Ohio State University and will include other beekeeping producers and experts here in Ohio. Topics for the program will include: Different Ways to Keep Bees, What’s going on in the Hive, The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Honey, Spring and Fall Hive Management as well as a question and answer period.

On Saturday, the conference will feature 25-plus sessions from Ohio State University and industry experts as well as a trade show for small farmers that will offer information that can benefit a variety of growers.

The “Living Your Small Farm Dream”, Conference and Trade Show will be held Saturday, March 25, 2017 at the R.G. Drage Center in Massillon, Ohio. Participants at this conference will also be able to choose from more than 25 sessions from Ohio State and industry experts as well as question producer speakers on issues related to small farms.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The overall goal of these events and the mission of the OSU Small Farms Program are to provide a greater understanding of production practices, economics of land-use choices, assessment of personal and natural resources, marketing alternatives, and the identification of sources of assistance.

We encourage you to attend both conferences as they will not cover all the same speakers or topics.  We try to keep the two conferences different so we can reach more producers and help them with their operation needs.

Some of the topics (Subject to Change) we plan to cover at the two conferences are:

  • Aquaculture
  • Lots on Livestock production
  • Poultry production
  • Farm Business Planning
  • Artisan Cheese Making
  • Direct marketing
  • Organics
  • Accessing Land
  • Sprayer Calibration
  • Utilizing Cover Crops
  • Soil Health
  • Fertility Management
  • High tunnels
  • Beekeeping
  • Vegetable and fruit production
  • Financing/loans
  • Estate Planning
  • Maple Syrup
  • Chain Saw Safety
  • and so much more

For more information about these two conferences, session descriptions and registration details please visit http://agnr.osu.edu/small-farm-programs or contact Tony Nye at (937) 382-0901 or nye.1@osu.edu

Ohio Legislature Changes Transfer on Death Designations Following Certain Life Events

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Asst. Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law

This is a re-post from the original article posted at: http://aglaw.osu.edu/

Many Ohioans choose to avoid the probate process by using a transfer on death designation. Since 2000, Ohio has permitted property owners to use transfer on death designations to transfer property upon the owner’s death. Since 2009, Ohio law has required property owners to make transfer on death designations by using an affidavit instead of a survivorship deed. Under a new Ohio law, transfer on death affidavits may automatically terminate after certain life events.

The new changes took effect on December 13, 2016 when the Governor signed Senate Bill 232 into law. Under Senate Bill 232, a transfer on death designation made either by a deed or by an affidavit to an owner’s spouse terminates if the property owner obtains a divorce, dissolution, or annulment.  The new law applies to new and pre-existing transfer on death designations.

Because the law applies to pre-existing transfer on death designations, it may be a good time for property owners to revisit their estate plans. Property owners should be aware of the effect of divorce, dissolution, or annulment on their transfer on death designations.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of Senate Bill 232 is available at: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=5461&format=pdf

More information on transfer on death designations is available from the Ohio State Bar Association at: https://www.ohiobar.org/ForPublic/Resources/LawYouCanUse/Pages/LawYouCanUse-195.aspx

Planning for the Future of Your Farm Workshop to be held in Darke County on February 15 & 22, 2017

By Sam Custer, Darke County Extension Educator

Darke County – OSU Extension will be hosting a farm success and estate planning workshop titled “Planning for the Future of Your Farm” on Wednesday, February 15 & 22, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Romers located at 118 East Main Street in Greenville, Ohio.   If you are thinking of how and when to transfer your farm business to the next generation, then this workshop is one which you will not want to miss.

This intensive workshop is designed to help farm families develop a succession plan for their farm business.  Attend and learn ways to successfully transfer management skills and the farm’s business assets from one generation to the next.  Learn how to have the crucial conversations about the future of your farm.  This workshop will challenge farm families to actively plan for the future of the farm business.  Farm families are encouraged to bring members from each generation to the workshop. Plan today for the future success of your family business!

The featured speakers for this event will include: Robert Moore, Attorney at Law, Wright & Moore Law Company; Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor for the OSYU Agricultural & Resource Law Program; David Marrison, Extension Educator for Ashtabula County; and Sam Custer, OSU Extension Educator for Darke County.

Registrations are limited to the first 60 persons.  The fee for this workshop is $40 per person with a registration deadline of February 8, 2017.  The fee includes lunch and program materials.  This workshop is sponsored in part by Second National Bank and Greenville National Bank.  More information about this program can be obtained by calling Sam Custer at the Darke County Extension office at 937-548-5215 and a program flyer can be found at: http://darke.osu.edu/events/farm-transition-succession-workshop.