Celebrate Ohio Ag This Summer

 Though agriculture is the backbone of Ohio, many consumers take it for granted. Now that summer is fast approaching, why not take a family outing to one of the Buckeye State’s historic farms to learn more about this important industry while having fun, too?

Ohio has a rich agriculture legacy that families can learn more about during farm visits.

Native Americans first introduced traditional vegetable crops to the state and when Europeans arrived during the late 1700s, growing practices were perfected and seeds from Europe were introduced to bring fruits and new grains to the state. Later, Ohio became a lucrative tobacco-producing state and farmers grew hemp for rope and cloth. 

Per an Ohio History Central story, farming birthed many industries:

“It is important to note that most early factories and industries grew out of Ohio's agricultural past. For example, by the 1810s, Dayton had a tobacco processing plant. Cincinnati became known as "Porkopolis" during the 1800s, once the city became the pork processing capital of the United States. Bezaleel Wells established a woolen mill in Steubenville in 1815, employing more than one hundred workers. Many manufacturers produced farming machinery, including Cyrus McCormick and Obed Hussey. McCormick invented the reaper, while Hussey developed an early version of the mower. Both of these men lived in Cincinnati during the 1830s.”

Ohio is home to many historic farms worth visiting.
Ohio Farm Sites:
   •    Carriage Hill MetroPark Farm — Dayton
   •    Lake Farmpark — Kirtland
   •    Slate Run Living Historical Farm — Westerville
   •    Ramseyer Farms — Wooster
   •    Malabar Farm — Lucas

What to expect:
    •    Planting demonstrations using period farming techniques and methods
    •    Educational tours/exhibits
    •    Crop picking
    •    Produce tasting

Related to farm sites that are open to the public is the Ohio’s Century Farms Program, which recognizes families who have maintained a farm in their family for at least 100 consecutive years. These farms may or may not be on-site accessible to tourists, but can be viewed from the roadside if traveling nearby.

To find a farm to visit or view, visit http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/cent_farms/.
Do you know of a historic Ohio farm that can be registered? Have you visited a historic farm?

Photo obtained from: http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/cent_farms/

Barriers Facing Young and Beginning Farmers

Young and beginning farmers have a few more challenges to overcome than more established farmers.

The National Young Farmer’s Coalition released a study in late 2011 showing that the nation’s young and beginning farmers face tremendous barriers to start a farming career, including:

    •    78 percent of farmers ranked “lack of capital” as a top challenge for beginning farmers and another 40 percent ranked “access to credit” as the biggest challenge
    •    68 percent of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginning farmers
    •    70 percent of farmers younger than 30 rented land, as compared to 37 percent of farmers older than 30

“There are certain things that are real hurdles for young people entering production agriculture right now, including the initial investment and the yearly operating expenses,” said Barry Ward, production business management leader, The Ohio State University Extension.

“An individual today can turn a profit at almost any level of size, but that is not always the case,” Ward said. “We are in an unprecedented period where commodity prices are allowing part-time and small farmers to find profitability. When we get into margins that are a bit thinner, it’s going to be a mixed bag of those individuals that want to farm full-time and the equation to make money will change considerably.”

According to an Ohio’s Country Journal article, land is a necessity for those farmers who want to pursue crop production as a career. The trend during the past decade has been established farmers securing any available acreage in their area to grow their operations. Finding good, affordable land is the biggest hurdle for a beginning farmer.

To help the nation’s younger farmers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is targeting more funding programs toward this demographic. In February, the USDA unveiled Start2Farm.gov, an online database of training and assistance programs from a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

In addition, the USDA appropriated $75 million from 2009 to 2012 to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.

Barry Ward suggests that young farmers have some off-farm employment to have some stability and recommends taking small steps at first, such as finding a rental parcel that is big enough to sustain a small equipment line, so that there isn’t too much initial overhead.

Are you or do you know a young farmer facing barriers in his/her farming practice? What do you think about the USDA’s Start2Farm online resource for young farmers? Do you have any advice to offer a young farmer?

Photo obtained from: agriculture.com

Custom Farming

There’s never a lack of things to do on a farm — mowing, plowing, seeding, fertilizing — the list goes on and on. In fact, there are so many chores to be accomplished that many farmers hire outside contractors to do some of the work for them, a practice commonly referred to as “custom farm work.”

According to a recent Ohio County Journal article, a large number of Ohio farmers are hiring “custom farmers” to provide machinery operations or other farm work that they don’t have the proper equipment, time or expertise to accomplish themselves.

Custom-farming contractors often tailor services to different groups: farmers, hobby farmers and landowners, who are often the largest consumer group for custom work.

“A lot of people move out here on 10 acres and think, it’s going to take care of itself, it’s nature,” said Josh Riddle, a custom-farm operator in a recent Capital Press article. “It’s not nature, it was farm ground. It’s just how to help them be stewards of the land.”

Riddle is a fourth-generation farmer in Washington who began his own custom-farming operation nearly a decade ago. He provides a variety of services — everything from seeding fields to applying custom fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

According to the University Extension at the Iowa State University, enlisting the help of a custom operator like Riddle can be particularly beneficial to farmers with small acreages who can still be productive without investing in a full line of machinery and helpful to farmers who are employed beyond the farm or who are retired.

Rates for custom farm work are wide ranging because of a multitude of variables — the size and shape of fields, condition of the crop, the mix of labor and machinery used, etc.

To help Ohio farmers better calculate and plan for costs associated with custom farm work, The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics recently published the Ohio Farm Custom Rates for 2012 report.

Based on a survey of more than 120 farmers, custom operators, farm managers and landowners throughout the state, the report provides rates for a variety of farm functions, including:
Soil preparation
Fertilizer application
Chemical and mechanical control of weeds or insects
Planting operations — till and no-till
Grain harvesting, storing, drying and hauling
Hay baling
Machinery rental and labor

Do you or someone you know utilize custom-farming contractors? If yes, what work do you or they farm out?

Photo obtained from: standerfarms.com

Farm Bill Progressing

  With a tremendous national budget debt, Congress is forced to examine all current and pending legislation to search for ways to reduce and allocate funding to every federally funded program, and agriculture legislation is no exception.  

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed legislation April 26 to authorize new farm programs effective until September 2017 while reducing our federal deficit $23 billion as part of its 2012 Farm Bill package. Its recommendations now reside with the full Senate and await a possible vote and amendments.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 is considered to be the earliest incarnation of the Farm Bill, passed during the Great Depression to assist farmers during extreme weather-induced losses. Recognizing the role of American farmers as providers of food, feed, fuel and fiber, the federal government has historically provided assistance to farmers to protect against market volatility and other operational challenges.

Though the majority of the public considers the bill as farmer-focused, its policies and programs support food security, nutrition/food programs, the environment, energy initiatives, food aid and the development of rural America.

As with all legislation, there is opposition. The House of Representatives are in the process of drafting their own proposal with reported reductions of at least $33 billion.

Because the current Farm Bill, which has a five-year lifespan, expires September 30, the House and Senate will eventually have to compromise for the implementation of new farm legislation before this date, or Congress will be faced with the proposition of some sort of extension of current law.

Though the bill addresses all programs, the summary below is specific to commodity crops. You may access the summary of the Farm Bill committee print at www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.

The most prominent aspect of the Senate ag committee’s proposed bill is the elimination of direct payments (subsidies to farmers based on historical production without regard to current prices or yields).

The other major component is its focus on crop insurance programs. Crop insurance continues to be recognized as one the most accepted forms of public policy support for commodity crop farmers. The bill requires this focus because of its removal of the direct-payment structure as a safety-net feature for farmers. With a shift to a market-driven insurance system from a government-directed system, strengthened crop insurance programs will serve as the primary safety-net mechanism for farmers with this version of the bill. 

The bill introduces a new revenue program named the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), to complement crop insurance programs, as its other main feature pertaining to commodity growers. Agriculture.com summarizes this program well.

Major Features (Farm Bill Markup Summary)
•    Eliminates direct payments to save $5 billion.
•    Savings would be invested in a new revenue insurance program (ARC) designed to complement crop insurance and protect farmers against multi-year losses caused by low prices or poor yields. Crop insurance would continue to be the tool used to protect against larger losses.
•    Payments would be capped at $50,000 per person or $100,000 for married couples.
•    Enforces stricter requirements that payment recipients be “actively engaged” in farming operations.

A news author reminds us of the significance of this vital bill:

“There are many reasons public support for agriculture is critical to rural economies, to the security and stability of our nation’s food supply and to the American public. The point isn’t to argue that support should be eliminated or even reduced; with 2 percent of the nation’s population producing all of the food, society has a strong interest in providing a safety net for this tiny minority.”

Let’s hope that the House can work with the same diligence as the Senate to achieve legislation that is mindful of the progress made thus far, to continue a speedy path to approval. 

 Photo obtained from: croplife.com 


Budgets Help Farmers Manage Operations

For farmers trying to decide what financial-planning resources to use to be the most profitable, the Ohio State University’s (OSU) Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics offers budgets to give farmers a place to start.

“Without some form of budgeting and some method to track an enterprise’s progress, farmers will have difficulty determining their most profitable enterprises and determine if they’ve met their goals for the farm,” said Barry Ward, production business management leader, OSU Extension.

Farmers can use enterprise budgets to evaluate options before resources are committed, estimate the amount of rent that can be paid for land or machinery, determine break even yields or prices and calculate potential returns on an investment. They also provide critical input for whole-farm planning, including the potential income for a particular farm, the size of farm needed to earn a potential return and anticipated cash flows throughout the year.

“One of the real benefits of using enterprise budgets is that they help farmers to not forget expenses that should be included in the planning or budgeting process,” said Dianne Shoemaker, OSU Extension state diary financial management specialist. “The budgets don’t just look at cash expenses such as seed, fertilizer, sprays and fuel, but they also take into consideration the overhead costs such as charges for land, labor, management, machinery and equipment.

The Ohio State University Extension offers the following 2012 enterprise budgets: 
  • Corn production 
  • Soybean production
  • Wheat production
  • Corn silage production
  • Alfalfa hay production
  • Alfalfa haylage production
  • Cow - Calf
  • Market Steer
  • Market Steer
  • Yearling Market Steer
  • Yearling Market Steer
  • Market Heifer Budget
Farmers can find the 2012 enterprise budgets at http://aede.osu.edu/programs/farmmanagement/budgets.

Do you or a farmer you know use enterprise budgets? Have they proven helpful in the past? Would you recommend them?

Photo obtained from: www.ocj.com