Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit

As the largest statewide gathering about farmland preservation in the nation, the Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit celebrated its 10th anniversary Nov. 5.

“Planting the Seeds of Future Prosperity” sought to educate nearly 300 attendees about news and issues regarding farmland preservation in the Buckeye State.

Farmland preservation is a collaborative effort among government and non-government entities to keep land strictly for agricultural use.
Farmers engage in preservation to ward off commercial development, invest in future growth, enhance conservation practices and for financial security.

Ohio Agricultural Secretary Robert Boggs and Ohio State University President Gordon Gee opened the conference, while a special video address featuring USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan welcomed attendants.

OSU’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center hosted the one-day event.

Session topics included:
  • The value of farmland
  • 2007 Census of Agriculture
  • Gauging support for farmland protection
  • Reducing land-access barriers for new farmers
  • Food policy and Ohio farmland
  • Adapting to climate change using sustainable soil management
The summit commenced with dialogue about 2007’s Census of Agriculture.

Taken every five years, the Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches. The summit analyzed Ohio’s results so that attendants would be aware of Ohio farmland statistics and could better gauge preservation growth.

Julia Musson, associate director of conservation funding, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, moderated a discussion about a variety of techniques farmers employ to safeguard their land from non-farm development. Testimonials were shared about farmers’ experience with using state and federal easement programs and donation tactics to acquire their land.

With data accumulated from Ohio’s agricultural easement purchase program (AEPP), Musson was able to provide information about Ohio’s participating farmers.

Attendants learned that most participants in Ohio’s AEPP are older corn and soybean farmers with at least half of their land invested in preservation. Money from AEPP is used by participating farmers to pay off debt, accumulate more land, compensate farm help and to finance equipment and buildings among others.

“The major part of this farm has been in the family since 1868, the rest was added in 1958,” said one AEPP participant. “This was a very good way of paying off debt and setting the farm up as one block so it could not be divided and sold as parcels. The possibility of this farm ground to be carried on to the fifth, sixth generation is likely.”

New Jersey is responsible for introducing the concept of farmland preservation to thwart urban expansion. The state passed The Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, which helped alleviate tax burdens on farm property so that more farmers could keep and purchase land for agricultural purchases.

Another session highlighted the growing interest about how food travels from farm to plate. Eleven existing and emerging councils throughout Ohio were discussed that are devoted to raising awareness about the value of family farms to maintaining a safe, local food supply.

Participants took away valuable information about how to personally participate in preservation efforts. As more and more farmers are made aware of our state’s assistance options, and as these programs evolve to reflect farmer needs, more Ohio land will be reserved for our state’s largest industry.

Do you feel that farms are alive and well in Ohio? What should be done to ensure that family farms maintain their presence throughout the state? How can the importance of the issues discussed at the summit be introduced to general consumers?

To Store or Sell: Farmers Face Harvest Decisions

As the 2009 harvest draws to a close, farmers are tasked with the decision about how to best utilize their crops.

Addressing post-harvest plans is difficult in an industry hinged on market changes. It becomes even more challenging after experiencing a delayed harvest, as in this year’s case. Farmers weighing and playing out their options is very comparable to brokers strategizing in the stock market.

The complexities of harvesting are widely unknown to general consumers, who fail to consider the business aspect of farming.

The prices of commodity crops fluctuate throughout the year, as markets rise and fall to reflect a variety of societal and economical factors including oil prices, value of the U.S. dollar, global demand and weather conditions.

Midwest corn and soybean farmers experienced, and may still be experiencing, a belated harvest this year because of late-season rains, which affects crop quality and availability and can contribute to market prices. However, because corn supply is more than adequate, the unfavorable weather won’t influence corn prices this season. While soybean supply may be tight this year, prices won’t be significantly affected by bad weather.

The USDA's projected price ranges are $3.25 to $3.85 for corn and $8.20 to $10.20 for soybeans.

Agriculture experts are making recommendations based on their knowledge of current supply and demand, and also base advice on speculation of future demand.

Expert Suggestions (Food & Agricultural Policy Institute)
  • Soybean farmers are advised to sell rather than store this year because demand is strong, supply is tight and no storage premium exists.
  • Corn farmers are advised to store rather than sell this year because supply is strong and because a storage premium is being offered.
Storage premiums are the future prices of commodity crops. July has the best corn price at $4.65, and August has the best soybean price at $10.15, as priced by the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Nov. 16.

Farmers look at storage premiums, as well as market forecasts, to aid them with their decision-making. From these projections, they can better decide how to allocate their grain among three basic options.

Harvest Options
  • On-farm storage: Farmers can store grain on-site to haul and sell at later dates without incurring storage costs, but must have the resources and revenue to do so. In doing so, farmers can take advantage of storage premiums.
  • Elevator storage: Farmers haul their crops to elevators for storage for contracted periods of time and pay storage fees. This option also allows for storage premiums.
  • Sell: Farmers receive upfront cash from direct sales at current market prices.
To further complicate the decision process, three basic contract options exist for farmers.

Contract Options
  • Flat-price contract: Delivery date, quantity and price are locked in with a grain elevator.
  • Basis contract: A difference between local price and the CBOT price is set and used as a factor in the selling price at a specified delivery date.
  • Hedge-to-arrive contract: The current CBOT price is honored at the delivery date.
A more comprehensive guide, compiled by Farmers Cooperative, can be located at http://www.fccoop.com/departments/grain/glossary.cfm, detailing advantages and disadvantages to several harvest options.

Farmers use their best judgment and turn to market signals and professionals when selecting how to market their crop and hope for the best. As the weeks and months roll on, they will learn if their decisions have paid off.

Ohioans Approve Livestock Care Standards Board

Sixty-four percent of Ohio voters favored Ohio’s State Issue 2 Tuesday, Election Day. The constitutional amendment will create a 13-member Livestock Care Standards Board to regulate food and farm policies in “the heart of it all.”

The majority of voters, nearly 2 million people, recognize the significance the board will have in shaping our state’s lead industry – agriculture.

The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will
• Assure Ohio families have a safe, locally grown food supply
• Bring the best Ohio experts in animal care and food production together
• Reinforce consumer confidence in Ohio-raised food
• Maintain the viability of Ohio agriculture
• Sustain Ohio's family farms

Executive Director of the Ohio Soybean Association and president of Ohioans for Livestock Care John Lumpe said the vote represented "Ohio taking care of Ohio.”

“Decisions about food and farming should be made in Ohio, by Ohioans,” said Lumpe.

The bipartisan board will be administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and comprises three farmers, two veterinarians (including the state veterinarian), a food-safety expert, a local humane-society expert, two statewide farm-organization members, an Ohio agricultural-college dean, two Ohio consumers and the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture who will also serve as its chairperson.

“The diverse group of experts serving on this board, together with Ohio’s citizens, will work to create a fair, uniform set of standards that ensure the safe and humane treatment of the state’s livestock and poultry, therefore sustaining the viability of Ohio’s family farmers and assuring safe, affordable food for all citizens,” said Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs.

“We are committed to make this work,” said Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, referring to the amendment as the most important legislation to Ohio’s agricultural community since a proposed pesticide-labeling initiative in the 1990s.

The issue passed in all Ohio counties except Athens County.

“It is clear that all Ohioans – rural and suburban, Republican and Democrat – have come together and recognize just how important agriculture is to the state,” said Lumpe.

The amendment originated as a response to threats from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS – an organization that advocates vegetarianism) to initiate legislation in the Ohio Constitution similar to California’s Proposition 2 last November, which banned animal confinement. HSUS seeks to outlaw poultry cages, veal crates and gestation stalls in Ohio.

Though the ballot initiative passed, HSUS has vowed to intervene in Ohio’s agricultural practices in the future.

At CantonRep.com, several bloggers weighed in about the issue’s passage:

“The efforts being 'thwarted' are those of the Humane Society of the United States. I am searching for a less loaded phrase than 'radical animal-rights lobbying organization,' and yet I really cannot find a better means of description. To give you an idea, JP Goodwin, who is in senior leadership at HSUS, has made the following statement: “My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.'”

Fisher is hopeful that the board will be in session by spring 2010.