March 19 is National Ag Day!

“Generations Nourishing Generations” is the theme for this year’s National Ag Day — Tuesday, March 19. Sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), National Ag Day was created in 1973 to enhance public awareness about agriculture and the importance it plays in Americans’ daily lives.

Through National Ag Day, the ACA, which is an organization composed of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities, hopes to increase Americans’ understanding of how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced, the essential role agriculture plays in a strong economy and career opportunities available in agriculture-related industries.

This year, which marks the 40th anniversary of National Ag Day, the ACA is hosting a variety of events in Washington D.C. — including expert panel discussions and a “Celebration of Ag” dinner — to highlight the significance of U.S. agriculture on a national and international level.

“This is undoubtedly the most important Ag Day program in our history,” said Jenny Pickett, ACA president in a news release. “Our goal is to ensure the eyes of the nation are on the contributions American agriculture makes not just here in the United States, but also around the world. That’s the message we’re taking to the Hill, and the message that will be carried through communities across America.”

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital, here are ideas from the ACA about how your farm, company or school can celebrate National Ag Day. Materials and additional ideas are available at

  • Ag Day Breakfast — Host an Ag Day breakfast for local government and business leaders. Identify a keynote speaker to talk about agriculture and plan your menu around locally grown and raised agriculture products.
  • Pizza Party — Organize a pizza party on a farm, in a classroom or at a mall. Explain how ingredients from kids’ favorite food come from farms and ranches and how each is processed and delivered to the grocery store or restaurant.
  • Adopt-A-Legislator — Invite one or more state legislators to visit local farms and ranches or set up a visit to their state office. Leave them with Ag Day materials and local agriculture products.
  • Adopt-a-Classroom — Host a classroom field trip to a local farm, ranch or a university’s agricultural research farm. Or, bring the farm to the classroom. This provides a great opportunity for children to learn about career opportunities in agriculture.
  • Library Display — Approach your local public or school libraries about organizing an exhibit during Ag Day. You might offer to arrange for a speaker or a lecture series about agriculture. Books about rural communities, animals, farms, etc., could be part of a special Ag Day section that encourages children to learn more about agriculture and how it affects their lives.

Are you planning an event or activity to celebrate National Ag Day? If yes, please share your plans or photos.

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Farmers have a census of their own

While it may be common knowledge that our nation conducts a census of the population every ten years, did you know that a special survey of the agricultural community is conducted every five years?

The Census of Agriculture began as part of the 1820 census and by 1840, it was decided that separate data collection would be conducted specific to farming. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service is wrapping up its collection of census forms for the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The deadline for farmers to return their forms was originally February 4, however the USDA is still accepting submissions, according to a recent press release.

The census is more than an opportunity for farmers to stand up and be counted. The data gathered is important to a host of decisions made about agriculture. In the USDA’s release, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack explains the importance of the census.

“Information from the Census of Agriculture helps USDA monitor trends and better understand the needs in agriculture. Providing industry stakeholders, community leaders, lawmakers and individual farm operators with the most comprehensive and accurate U.S. agricultural reports, we all help ensure the tools are available to make informed, sound decisions to protect the future of American agriculture.”

With issues such as the farm bill and crop insurance at stake, policymakers could use data from the census to make better-informed decisions.

The census covers a broad range of areas within farming, from production practices to land use. By law, farmers receiving a census form must complete it, including producers with more than $1,000 in product sales last year. According to a recent article, the 26-page form takes an average of 50 minutes to complete.

If you are a farmer and have questions about the Census of Agriculture, resources are available at or by calling 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).

Have you or farmers in your community participated in this year’s census? Do you see the value of collecting this information?

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The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

Last year’s nationwide drought was the worst since 1956. According to the National Weather Service, last March was the warmest March on record  — nearly 9 degrees warmer than the average — and July was the hottest month on record with back-to-back days in the 90s. In 2011, it was much different — there was a record rainfall in Ohio, severe drought in the lower Midwest and an unusually mild winter.

Climate change is not new to Ohio farmers. But, what do these ever-evolving climate changes mean for farmers and the future of agriculture?

Climatologist consultant, Evelyn Browning-Garriss, says that with a proper understanding of the climate, farmers can plan ahead for the weather changes that are coming.

“The Gulf Stream and other tropical currents are flowing faster, which heat the North Atlantic,” says Browning-Garriss. “This warm phase should continue for 15 or 20 more years and can create hotter summers, more active hurricane seasons and colder winters in the Midwest, Great Lakes and eastern states. Rapid flows of the Gulf Stream can create a warmer Atlantic, which can then create heat waves and ‘flash droughts’ in the Midwest and Great Plains.”

While the weather may continue to be more challenging for U.S. agriculture in the coming years, Browning-Garriss says that Ohio is a comparative winner in general, with more moderate extremes than much of the country. Nonetheless, Ohio farmers should be prepared to maximize water resources and minimize heat stress for the next two decades.

So, how can Ohio farmers adjust their farming practices to an ever-changing climate?

A recent Ohio’s Country Journal article states that the use of no-till in combination with cover crops can play an increasingly important role in a warmer climate with more extreme heat waves and droughts.

“No-till and cover crops can reduce soil temperatures to soften temperature extremes,” says Jim Hoorman with The Ohio State University Extension in Putnam County. “In hot soil, bacteria can actually die. A hot dry summer can quickly reduce yields, but no-till and cover crop use can reduce soil temperatures and retain more water in soils.”

Farmers can also consider these additional climate change options:
  • More double-cropping opportunities with longer growing seasons
  • Planting more hybrid varieties to mitigate the risk of yield loss (for example, during a drought)
  • Relying more heavily on sound agronomics to buffer against challenging conditions
It will be interesting to see what the future holds in terms of our ever-changing climate and how we’ll need to adapt our farming practices accordingly.

What are your thoughts about our changing climate the past few years? Have you or are you planning to adapt your farming practices to adjust for climate changes?

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Energy Efficiency on the Farm

Employing energy-efficient measures on the farm is a win-win situation — farmers get to save a few bucks (maybe even thousands), while also conserving valuable energy resources.

However, when it comes to making their farms more energy efficient, many farmers don’t know where to begin. According to Ohio’s Country Journal, an energy audit is a great place to start.

Often conducted by agricultural energy consultants or local electricity providers, energy audits typically consist of an hour-long phone interview to review the types of equipment on the farm followed by an on-site visit and detailed audit and assessment of the farm’s energy usage.

“In many cases, farmers are not aware of how much they can be saving,” said Dana Koppes, an engineer with New Energy Systems. “Lighting and ventilation are two of the big areas for energy savings on many farms. Dairy pumps, heating and cooling systems on livestock farms and greenhouse operations can see real savings just by changing a few things.”

Farmers interested in becoming more energy efficient can apply to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) to receive funding for an energy audit and financial and technical assistance to implement energy-conservation measures through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications are accepted continually throughout the year for the program, but are evaluated and ranked according to the environmental benefits that could be derived from approved conservation measures.

Don’t have time or money for an energy audit? Here are some tips and steps farmers can implement now to save energy and money around the farm, courtesy of Corn and Soybean Digest:

  • Review your farm’s energy usage: Tax reports and a year’s worth of utility bills will help you identify how much energy you’re using and the associated costs. Typically, grain operations, diesel, electricity and propane top the list of farm-energy expenditures.   
  • Upgrade lighting systems: Swapping out incandescent lights for more energy-efficient fluorescent lamps can result in big savings and many utilities offer rebates or incentives to help cover costs.
  • Maintain tractors and trucks: Replacing air and fuel filters on tractors and pickups can deliver a 3 to 4 percent bump in fuel efficiency. Maintaining proper tire inflation will also make vehicles more efficient.
  • Insulate pipes: Insulating a water heater and pipes can reduce heat loss by 25 to 45 percent and reduce water-heating costs by 4 to 9 percent.

Have you taken measures to reduce your energy usage at home or on the farm? Have any tips or suggestions to share?

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