Agriculture

Farmers warned they need to do more to stop algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A hundred or so farmers listened to the grim reality last week that they need to do more to prevent algal blooms in Lake Erie. A panel discussion hosted by the Ohio Farmers Union at Otsego High School stressed that while some farmers are voluntarily reducing the phosphorus that creates the harmful algae, their efforts are not likely to be enough to meet the federal goal of a 40 percent reduction. And that means if farmers don’t make the necessary reductions on their own, they may be forced to do so. “We know that farmers need to do more,” said Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union. “Farmers need to stand up. They always have before, and I believe they will again.” The alternative is that the Environmental Protection Agency will get involved and set stricter requirements. “If we don’t achieve that, there will be additional regulation,” Logan said. “Farmers need to up their game in terms of the environmental repercussions.” Jeffery Reutter, retired director of the Ohio State Stone Lab, said the 40 percent reduction is only possible if extensive changes are made, and if problem fields are identified. But he also predicted that one-third of farmers are not likely to take needed action without “more aggressive encouragement.” When asked by moderator Jack Lessenberry about the best ways to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, the panel had varied answers. Meindert Vandenhengel, who owns a 5,000-head hog farm in Van Wert County, said the only problem is distribution of manure. There is plenty of farmland to handle all the manure, it just needs to be spread properly. But Vandenhengel seemed to be aware of the perspective of people in the Toledo area, who may think, “I buy his pork chops, but he’s poisoning my water,” he said. Logan said rigorous soil tests must be performed and application regulations must be set. “There are enormous economic incentives to take shortcuts,” Logan said of the agricultural industry. “We need absolute limits to application rates.” Reutter said farmers need to apply less phosphorus and the amounts they do apply should be inserted into the soil to prevent runoff. Reutter explained that western basin of Lake Erie is most susceptible to toxic algal blooms because of its shallow depths, the high use of agricultural land in the watershed, the lack of forested land, and the urban/suburban areas. The Maumee River drains 4.2 million acres of farmland into the lake. “That means we’re going to get the most nutrients,” he said. The algae problem is not new – having occurred before in the 1960s and 1970s. But the region recovered then by improving sewage treatment plants, reducing phosphorus by 62 percent, Reutter said. But that was an easier fix back then. Rather than working on sewer…


Ag advocate urges farmers to open up to consumers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Emily Buck, an educator, communicator and farmer, was on friendlier ground recently when she addressed the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum than she was about a month before in Washington D.C. The proof was right there on the menu. The local group was munching on an egg and cheese dish and tiny sausages. When Buck was a member of the panel at a conference sponsored by Food Tank, lunch was hummus and mushroom burgers. Food Tank, a group that advocates for sustainable agriculture, is not a friend of conventional farming, Buck said.  She even called it “scary” at one point. But she felt she needed to be there. She didn’t hide who she was. She and her husband, John Buck, raise corn, soybeans, and some wheat on about 1,000 acres in Marion County. She also maintains a sheep herd. And the corn and soybeans are grown from genetically modified seed. “This is not a friendly group by any means,” she said. “But I put myself out there because we needed someone from our side be part of the conversation. “There are people making decisions who have never set foot on a farm. They don’t understand why GMOs are allowing me to use less herbicides, letting me have better water quality.” People who care about sustainability are worried about air, soil, water, and habitat. “We have to find a way to talk to people who are concerned about these things in the right way,” Buck said. The associate professor at Ohio State urged farmers to get out of their comfort zones to engage the consumers of what they grow. That means confronting misconceptions and misunderstandings, as well as finding common ground. Facts, she said, are not enough. Connecting emotionally, connecting with the consumers’ values are the only way to get through. In an age of instant communications, that becomes all the more important, Buck said. She quoted writer and animal scientist Temple Grandin as saying: “Every phone is a TV.” That’s frightening for farmers. Much of what happens on the farm is not pretty, and can be misinterpreted as being cruel, she said. That makes farmers and ranchers leery of engaging the public. But those truths need to be confronted as well. A petting zoo does not show an accurate picture of farming. So Buck said just about every year she’ll post a photo of a dead lamb. She shows it as a tragedy for the ewe, and sad for her. Three segments of consumers drive most of the conversation, Buck said – moms, millennials, and foodies. “Those are the ones blogging and posting.” Mothers are concerned about food safety and what they are feeding their children. They’re very savvy, she said, about social media, and that’s where they turn to get and give advice….


Large farms must meet strict regs, ODA official says

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners often hear about problems with CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations.  So last week, they met with the person in charge of keeping track of those large farms and the manure produced by them. Kevin Elder, chief of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, gave the county commissioners an overview of CAFOs in Ohio, including the regulations and the numbers in the state. Wood County has three dairy cow CAFOs and one chicken CAFO. Dairy cattle statistics for Ohio show the greatest number of operations with dairy cows as 39,000 farms in 1950. Those farms had more than 1.1 million dairy cows. “That was back when my grandpa taught me how to milk cows,” Elder said. And that was back when it was common for most farms to have their own dairy cows, Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Everybody had cows.” By 2016, the number of farms with dairy cows had dropped to 2,671, and the number of dairy cows in Ohio had decreased to 266,000. Wayne County leads the state in dairy cows, followed by Mercer and Holmes counties. Ohio ranks 11th in milk production and first in Swiss cheese production. Ohio has the most robotic milkers, Elder said, with one dairy in Wood County being robotic. Cows are also producing so much more milk than in the past, with an average per cow output in the past of 4,000 pounds a year, increasing up to 40,000 pounds a year, he said. The only livestock group that has expanded in the last few years in Ohio is poultry. In 1963, the state had 5 million layer chickens and 10.7 million broilers. By 2015, the layers numbered 33 million and the broilers hit more than 80 million. Ohio ranks second in the U.S. for both laying hens and egg production. “Poultry is the only species that has increased in numbers,” Elder said. “Wood County was the highest beef cattle county in the state at one time, now it’s almost non-existent,” he said. Elder explained to the commissioners what qualifies as a large concentrated animal feeding operation in Ohio: 700 mature dairy cows 1,000 beef cattle 2,500 swine weighing 55 pounds or more 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds 82,000 chicken, laying hens 125,000 chickens, other than laying hens 55,000 turkeys 500 horses There are a total of 230 CAFOs in Ohio: 40 dairy 5 beef 78 swine 103 poultry 4 horses “Either farms are getting bigger or they are getting out,” Elder said. When Senate Bill 141 was signed by the governor in 2000, the ODA was required to develop rules for CAFOs. Prior to that, the Ohio EPA issued permits to install for CAFOs, but had no permits to operate and…


Rebecca Singer, new leader at Center for Innovative Food Technology, is rooted in farming

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In her new position as CEO and president of the Center for Innovative Food Technology, Rebecca Singer has to deal with the entire spectrum of the food industry, from seed to package. She brings just the right mix of experience the job requires. Singer, who took over the leadership role about a month ago, has a degree in agri-business and applied economics from Ohio State, and she managed the state’s Ohio Proud program before taking a position with CIFT 15 years ago. All that is grounded on the farm. She grew up on a farm in Defiance County, and when she moved back to Northwest Ohio to join CIFT, she decided settle back there. She and her brother now manage the operation while their father stays involved in the chores he enjoys like driving the tractor. They grow soybeans and ponder all the issues that farmers face. Do they have enough acreage for a viable soybean operation? Should they transition into vegetables and specialty crops? “It lends a lot of authenticity that these are the kinds of things that go through our minds on our operation,” Singer said. Like Ohio’s weather, the agriculture sector is ever changing. Recently “there’s been such a tremendous amount of interest in local foods,” she said. This effects the farmers who grow the food those who process it. That’s been seen at CIFT’s Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen outside of Bowling Green on Ohio 582.  The facility serves as a launching pad for local food products. “A lot of people enjoy making food for other people,” Singer said. “They enjoy sharing recipes that’s been passed down for generations.” The cooperative kitchen has the equipment and expertise to help that make that happen. CIFT can serve as “a one-stop shop” for producers, helping them identify sources of ingredients, fine-tuning their processing to make it as cost effective as possible, and adhering to food safety procedures. Interest in using the kitchen increased with the local food movement. “It’s really exploded,” she said. More and more people want “a clean label,” she said. They don’t want to see an ingredients list laden with artificial additives and preservatives. Tastes will shift. It’s all about hot and spicy now. The desire for local ingredients is here to stay, she said. Growers are straining to meet that demand. Finding labor for those few weeks when they need to harvest is a challenge, one they share with larger processors. “We hear all the time that they can’t find help,” she said. Finding folks who want to work hard, in the heat of summer is increasingly difficult. Mechanization can help, but harvesting still needs the human touch, she said. The ag incubator located at the cooperative kitchen site demonstrates new technologies and methods for growing food, as well…


County asked again to take stand against big dairy, for Lake Erie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After six months of silence from the Wood County Commissioners, a couple activists were back before the board Tuesday asking for support. The commissioners heard again from Vickie Askins about suspected manure violations from a large dairy, and from Mike Ferner about the need to protect Lake Erie. The two made the same requests as last summer to the commissioners: Write a letter to the Ohio EPA about the dairy, and sign a resolution declaring the lake as impaired. Again, the commissioners asked a few questions, but took no action Tuesday on either request. “This is happening in your county,” Askins said. “I just think this is terrible.” According to Askins, the dairy on Rangeline Road southwest of Bowling Green, has repeatedly violated manure lagoon and manure application regulations during the last 13 years. “There has been a history of violations,” she said of the former Mander Dairy which is now owned by Drost Land Co. Askins informed the commissioners last summer that when Manders Dairy went bankrupt four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. Federal law requires that the manure must be taken care of when a CAFO closes, Askins said. And Ohio EPA requires that no manure be applied to farm fields unless up-to-date soil samples and manure analyses are obtained. Askins, a watchdog of mega dairies in Wood County, said neither has been done. The lagoon is nearly full, and no field application study documentation can be found. Yet, she had seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site. “Everybody acts like this is OK,” she said. “Nobody’s taking any responsibility for this place.” Manure that seeps from the lagoon does not stay onsite, but makes its way to nearby Tontogany Creek, Askins said. “A tributary of Tontogany Creek goes into the Maumee River one mile upstream from the Bowling Green water intake.” The problem is not about to lessen, since owners of the Rangeline Road dairy are interested in expanding, she said. A few miles to the east, the MSB Dairy recently expanded to 2,960 cows. But according to Askins, U.S. dairies are dumping milk due to the current “glut.” A similar excess of milk about seven years ago led to such low prices that several mega dairies went under, she said. Askins asked the commissioners to send a letter to the Ohio EPA asking for the dairy to be penalized or shut down. “This is just appalling to me. There are so many violations,” she said. “Somebody needs to make this place accountable.” Also returning to the county commissioners’ office on Tuesday was Ferner, who again asked the board to consider signing onto a resolution designating Lake Erie as “impaired.” The resolution has been endorsed by the…


Rezoning sought for ‘smiley face’ barn site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For decades, the giant smiley face on the big white barn welcomed motorists on Interstate 75 as they traveled north of Bowling Green. The message advertised no product – just simply offered a happy greeting, signed Joe & Gertie. Though the smile has faded, the barn still stands at the northwest corner of I-75 and Ohio 582. But Joe and Gertie Carpenter are long gone. The barrel of water at their driveway with a jug for filling strangers’ stubborn radiators is no longer there. And so now it is up to the Carpenters’ three children to decide what to do with the 95 acres the family owns at the site. The land has long been farmed, but developers have approached the offspring about the acreage with easy access to I-75 and Route 582. So Joe and Gertie’s children have asked that Middleton Township change the zoning from A-1 agricultural to M-1 light industrial. “They want to make the property more marketable for industrial and commercial end users,” explained Dave Steiner, director of the Wood County Planning Commission. The zoning request came before the county planning commission on Tuesday on its way to the Middleton Township Trustees, who will make the final decision on the zoning request. There is no specific plan yet for the site, “but they would rather have it zoned and ready to go,” Steiner said. “We’re seeing this more and more.” Other acreage in the area has already gone through the same preparations, such as the property at the southwest corner of Route 582 and Mercer Road. A couple miles to the west, acreage at the southeast corner of Route 582 and Ohio 25 is already being used for industrial purposes. Tom Teet, attorney for the Carpenter family, pointed out how people can recognize the acreage in question. “It’s the barn that has the big smiley face,” he said. The family is not in a rush to sell the acreage, in fact, “the property’s not for sale,” Teet said. However, the three Carpenter siblings and Teet have received multiple phone calls from prospective purchasers. The prospects are no longer interested when they find out the acreage is zoned for agriculture, he said. “The first step is zoning,” Teet said about the M-1 request. “That ideally fits the potential uses of that property.” The second step is utilities, Teet added. The site already has gas and electric accessible, and water and sewer are about a half mile down the road from the Northwestern Water and Sewer District. “We’re just trying to make the site usable for potential users,” Teet said. The proposed light industrial use complies with land use plans that call for an “employment corridor” in that area, he added. The county planning commission recommended approval for the zoning…


Study: More farmers need to take steps to reduce phosphorus feeding toxic algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many northern Ohio farmers have already taken steps voluntarily to cut down on toxic algae blooms – but not enough, according to researchers. The U.S. and Canada have agreed to cut phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent in the next decade. But that goal won’t be met unless more farmers make some changes, according to researchers from Ohio State University. The OSU project found that the following steps by farmers would help reach that 40 percent reduction in phosphorus discharge, which feeds toxic algae in the lake: Apply fertilizer below the soil surface. Plant cover crops which prevent rain from washing fertilizer into waterways. These crops are grown in fields that would otherwise go unplanted. Plant buffer strips, with grass or non-crop plants surrounding the fields. These also keep the fertilizer from going into ditches or creeks, and ultimately into the lake. The OSU study found that 39 percent of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed already use subsurface fertilization, 22 percent grow cover crops and 35 percent plant buffer strips. Those steps have all been taken on a voluntary basis by farmers. However, those efforts are not enough, according to the researchers. To cut the phosphorus discharge in Lake Erie by 40 percent, each of those three preventative steps must grow by at least 20 percent. “A lot of farmers have already taken the risk … to help move the needle,” Jay Martin, project leader and director of OSU’s Field to Faucet water quality program said recently, according to the Associated Press. “That’s really encouraging. But we need to accelerate.” When contacted this week, Martin expressed optimism that voluntary efforts by farmers in this region of Ohio can result in the difference needed. According to Martin, information from surveys of farmers in the Maumee watershed shows there is great potential for farmers to reach the needed levels of adoption. “The surveys we have completed show likely future adoption rates for these practices exceeding these needed levels,” Martin said. “It’s also important to note that many farmers have already adopted these practices, as demonstrated by current adoption rates of 39 percent for subsurface placement of phosphorus fertilizer and 22 percent for cover crops,” Martin said. “With continued and accelerated adoption of these practices, it appears we can reach reduction targets.” Martin predicted more farmers will get on board once they see the value of the buffer and fertilizer practices. “Our surveys also tell us that one of the most important factors farmers consider while evaluating these management practices is perceived efficacy,” Martin said. “Farmers are more likely to adopt practices that they are confident will be effective at reducing phosphorus leaving fields.” To prove the effectiveness, several agricultural groups have introduced programs to test and demonstrate how these practices work,…


Ditch cleanup stirs up conflicting interests

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Farmers between Bowling Green and Perrysburg don’t take kindly to their fields being flooded out by plugged ditches. But it appears that people living in neighboring housing developments also don’t take kindly to being told how to handle the ditches that meander through their backyards. The two sides of the issue butted heads last week during preliminary hearings on clearing two ditches in Middleton Township. The opposing sides did a lot of eye rolling and head shaking at each others’ testimony before the Wood County Commissioners. The proposed ditch projects, petitioned by farmers Gerald Moser and Doug Pratt, start on Five Point Road and head north through the River Bend housing subdivision. Flooding already occurs in the Five Point Road ditch area, and is expected to get worse once nearly 300 homes are constructed in the development. According to Wood County Engineer Ray Huber, the watershed for the projects includes 764 acres. “This office feels that the quicker the ditch in question can be placed under county care, the better,” Huber stated in his report to the county commissioners. “In other words, this would lessen the impact on developed lots and facilitate ditch construction where home construction has not started.” Prolonging the ditch cleanup will only exacerbate construction issues later, Huber said. But attorneys representing the River Bend development said putting the ditches under a county maintenance program is unnecessary. The homeowners association can properly maintain the ditches, they stated. “The assumption is government can do a better job” than the homeowners, attorney Jerome Parker said. “That’s not true.” Brian McCarthy, developer of River Bend, said clogged ditches have not been a problem. “We’ve maintained our ditches,” McCarthy said. However, Huber said such efforts by homeowner groups are often unsuccessful. Duane Abke, of the county engineer’s office, said McCarthy made the same claims with the nearby Emerald Lakes subdivision. But the ditches there often flood with rain, Abke said. And the developer points the finger at the homeowners association as responsible for any improvements. Middleton Township Trustee Fred Vetter repeatedly shook his head during the hearing as the attorneys and developer denied any responsibility for flooding issues. “We gotta look 30 years down the road on how that ditch will be maintained,” Vetter said. The ditches are already not flowing freely. “The last time that ditch got cleaned” farmers pulled out their checkbooks and paid for the work, Vetter said. But they shouldn’t have to foot the bill once 300 homes are added to the watershed, he said. The estimated cost for the Moser ditch project is $65,000, and the cost for the Pratt section is $42,600. Parker also said the county engineer’s office took the ditch projects beyond their original scopes to include the River Bend development. He and attorney Drew…


CIFT appoints Rebecca A. Singer as president and CEO

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY TOLEDO – The governing board of the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), the northwest Ohio affiliate of the Ohio Manufacturing Partnership, and a recognized leader in providing technical innovations and solutions to regional manufacturers with special expertise in the food processing industry, appointed Rebecca A. Singer as president and CEO effective Jan. 1, 2017. After more than eight years at the helm, current CIFT president and CEO Dave Beck announced his retirement in August.  Beck has been with the organization since its inception in 1995. “Rebecca is the perfect choice to lead CIFT on its continued path of success,” stated William J. Hirzel, chairman of the board, CIFT.  “Rebecca recognizes the importance of the manufacturing sector to our region, and understands the tools that can be used to help it grow.” One of the senior staff members at CIFT, Singer has identified and evaluated numerous strategies to advance emerging technologies, provided direction to many small business initiatives, and helped to establish a network of regional partners to represent the Ohio MEP throughout the 19 counties of northwest Ohio. Prior to joining CIFT in 2001, she worked with the Ohio Department of Agriculture as the OHIO PROUD coordinator and direct marketing specialist.  A graduate of the Ohio Leadership Education and Development program, Singer participated in tours of various statewide and international businesses.  In 2006, she traveled to Israel at the invitation of the Negev Foundation, touring various agricultural and food technology facilities.  She was a recipient of the 2007 Young Professional Achievement Award given by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Alumni Society.  It was at Ohio State where she earned her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and applied economics.  She has also attended many professional development programs in Lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, manufacturing quality systems, food safety programs, and has served on several planning and advisory boards. Singer joined the organization in 2001, and becomes the third president and CEO in the history of CIFT.


Wood County land use plan to steer development

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s land use plans get more colorful as the county continues to try steering development toward the best areas for growth. “It may not happen overnight, but it’s coming,” said Wood County Planning Director Dave Steiner. And the county wants to see that growth going to areas with the roads, waterlines and sewer lines to handle it – while maintaining the agricultural and natural areas that are also important to the county. Last week, the county planning commission unveiled the draft of its latest land use plan. The plan takes into consideration the latest census information, demographics and development. “I didn’t want to work off the old one at all,” Steiner said during an open house on the plan held at the county library. The county had outgrown the last land use plan, which had been adopted in 2007. “There were a lot of changes that hadn’t even taken place yet,” like the CSX intermodal hub near North Baltimore. “I wanted something more substantial.” The plan also looks at “reinvestment areas,” where previous development has “fallen by the wayside” and may need a jumpstart with brownfield development, Steiner said. And the plan defends agricultural areas that are still vital to the county’s economy. “We’ve designated a chunk where we don’t want anything,” he said. “We want to protect agriculture.” The guiding principles of the land use plan are as follows: Support sustainable land use and development patterns, and identify and protect natural and environmental resources. Protect prime agricultural land and support agricultural production. Target economic development areas to support and attract employment generating uses. Identify sensitive natural areas for protection, possible areas for recreation in coordination with these natural areas, and historic or cultural sites to protect. Make efforts to promote redevelopment and reinvestment in areas with existing infrastructure and services and strategically manage the outward expansion of suburban development particularly in townships with the greatest growth pressures. The land use plan, developed by McBride Dale Clarion from Cincinnati, will next go before the county planning commission for review, then finally to the county commissioners for approval. The plan is available for public viewing at the county planning commission, at the county commissioners office, and online at http://planning.co.wood.oh.us. Emily Crow, who helped develop the land use plan, said Wood County was different than other clients because of its size. “Unlike a lot of communities that have a lot of what Wood County has, Wood County is very big,” she said. The land use plan can be used by other governmental entities in the county to help steer growth as well, Crow said. “There was a very conscious effort to create a tool that the townships can use and the smaller villages can use.” Because the plan is more detailed than those…


Hirzel Canning blends tradition & innovation in products packed with the flavor of Northwest Ohio

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Prohibition knocked Carl Hirzel’s upstate New York brewery out of business, he turned his knowledge of fermentation toward making another product. “He took his technology for making beer and turned it to making sauerkraut,” said his great-grandson Steve Hirzel. By then Carl and his wife, Lena, had joined his brothers in the Toledo area.  “The company literally started in the kitchen,” Hirzel said. Hirzel Canning & Farms continues in operation 93 years later with a fifth generation moving in to keep the firm moving forward. And the company still makes sauerkraut, originally sold under the Deer Lodge brand now as Silver Fleece. Business is good for the tart fermented cabbage, Hirzel, president of Hirzel Canning, told the Bowling Green Exchange Club Tuesday. The company is still looking toward fermentation as a way to develop other products for an increasingly fickle consumer. Hirzel said company’s success is rooted in the Great Black Swamp. “In our backyard we’ve been given a garden to grow our crops. … Half of products we get are within 10 miles of the facility.” Those products now are centered on tomatoes, which the company turns in salsas, pasta and Sloppy Joe sauce and tomatoes in various forms from crushed to whole, in cans and cartons. “Anything you can think of doing with tomatoes we do,” he said, “except paste.” The varieties of tomatoes grown locally are not suited to making paste. They are more like what people would pick from their gardens. They don’t need a lot of processing on their way to the consumer. “We want to heat it up really quickly, sterilize it and put it in the package,” Hirzel said. That’s the difference between the more than 60 products sold under the Dei Fratelli label and its competitors’ products. Working closely with area growers, some who have been associated with the companies for four generations, the company aims to be “picking it when it’s vine ripe, and then putting it in the package right away. You talk about preserving nutrients and color.” Those growers are essential. “They’re family farmers, local,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have this reliable base.” The company still has a farm at its headquarters in Northwood, where they constantly refine seed varieties to produce the best, most consistent. It’s not uncommon for the company to be testing 30-40 varieties for qualities related to production, a thick skin to protect the fruit in shipping, ease of peeling, and yield. The farm also is studying organic growing. The conditions here, Hirzel said, makes growing organic tomatoes difficult. But the company is growing grains in the operation started 30 years ago by Hirzel’s uncle, John Hirzel. The operation contracts with other companies to clean and sort their organic product. Hirzel Canning also…


Stinging and sweet … job of the county apiarist

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Few people probably know what an apiarist is. Fewer still know that Wood County has one on the payroll. But this morning, the county commissioners hired a new apiarist – a beekeeper – to keep an eye on the honey bee hives in the county. Why does the county need a beekeeper? Well it turns out that a lot of crops raised locally rely on honey bee pollination – like pumpkins, apples, tomatoes and strawberries. The role was filled for years by Fritz Gehring, who retired earlier this year. The new apiarist is Michael Horst, who works in the heating and air conditioning business, but who has gardened for years. “As a gardener, it led into that naturally,” Horst said of beekeeping. In fact, he was named Michael after his great-grandfather, who was a beekeeper. He not only inherited the name and the inclination, but also the 50-year-old beekeeping equipment. Horst has already started his rounds in the county, visiting first some of the bee hives in the Perrysburg area and the Wood County Park District. “It’s a lot of education for the newbies, and catching up with the older ones,” Horst said of the local beekeepers. Horst has been inspecting for mites, which are the biggest problem plaguing honey bee hives right now. He also looks for bacterial diseases, which are spread to healthy hives by bees raiding other less healthy hives. “Bees will rob weaker colonies and carry diseases,” he explained. And if diseases aren’t caught, the colony’s health may be threatened. Horst can also inspect commercial bee businesses, to make sure they aren’t selling sick bees. Many of the hives in the county are registered, which enables Horst to offer his help. Many farmers bring boxes of bees to their farms to help with orchards or other crops. “Natural pollinators are out there, they exist in the environment. But sometimes, it’s not enough,” Horst said. “Every gardener, every park system benefits from the pollination.” “I think our food web is bottom up more than we think,” he said. As a bee hive inspector, Horst has to be willing to get stung. For that challenge, he will be paid $15 an hour by the county. “There’s easier ways to make a part-time income,” he said. But Horst has learned some tricks of the trade to minimize the chances of getting stung. Transporting hives to farmers can be difficult, but is best done at night or very early in the morning. “Bees can be kind of like people, where they have good days and bad days,” he said. “You have to listen to them.” Moving boxes of bees when they are full of honey can be difficult, since the boxes can weigh up to 100 pounds – “and they’re full of…


Ordinary citizens honored for extraordinary lives

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   They may have looked like an ordinary farmer, teacher, nurse and small town mayor. But the four were recognized for being so much more than that Sunday during the annual Spirit of Wood County Awards presented in the courthouse atrium. Recognized were Dan Henry, Janet Stoudinger, Brian Tucker and Jean Gamble. “So many times, we forget to recognize people who do outstanding things,” said Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw at the beginning of the event. The Spirit of Wood County Awards changed that during the bicentennial of the Northwest Ordinance in 1987. And after that, the county commissioners decided to make the awards an ongoing effort to recognize ordinary citizens for doing extraordinary acts. Dan Henry, of rural Bowling Green, was given the Agricultural Leadership Award. Henry, a former industrial arts teacher at Anthony Wayne, worked part time at Riker Farm Seed starting in 1975, said Lesley Riker, who nominated him for the award. Upon retiring from teaching, Henry took over presidency and full-time management of Riker Farm Seed. He is active in the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, is on the educational committee, and is active in Ohio Foundation Seeds and Advanced Genetics. “Dan believes strongly in education,” Riker said. Riker Farm Seed hosts corn and soybean test plots, field days and hosts several hundred FFA members who come to the farm for education on hybrid corn and soybeans. Henry is now working closely with Farm 4 Clean Water, OSU Extension and Wood Soil and Water in hosting demonstration plots for cover crops and how they can help with water run-off and nutrient uptake. “We as farmers are doing something for water quality,” Riker said. “I don’t know what we could do without him,” Riker said about Henry. Janet Stoudinger, of Wayne, who passed away in January, was recognized with the Self Government Award. Tom Bentley, who presented the award, said it was fitting that the ceremony was being held in the Alvin Perkins Atrium, since there was so many similarities between Perkins and Stoudinger. “He gave back a lot more than he took in – the same as Jan,” Bentley said. Stoudinger held positions as a teacher, coach and mayor of Wayne. “Jan taught us a lot about restraining ourselves,” Bentley said. “She never disrespected anyone.” Stoudinger was a member of Wayne Village Council for 13 years and mayor for 13 more. She was past-president of the Wood County Mayors’ Association, served as a poll worker, sheriff’s office volunteer, served on the Wood County Emergency Management Advisory Board, and was a volunteer radio operator for the fire department. She brought refreshments to emergency scenes. “Jan Stoudinger was always interested in building her community,” the nomination form stated. She was an active member of the Wood County Committee on Aging, helping to…


Ohio EPA: Lake Erie ‘impaired’ status unnecessary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioners were asked this year by an environmentalist to sign onto a request that Lake Erie’s Western Basin be declared “impaired.” They were also asked this year by a farmer to not seek the “impaired” designation. Not certain of the best course of action, the commissioners asked the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to help clear up the issue. But the issue seemed to get more complicated instead. “As clear as mud,” Karl Gebhardt said as he left the commissioners’ office on Tuesday. Gebhardt, deputy director of the Ohio EPA Water Resources and Lake Erie Programs and executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, said the phosphorus causing algae problems in the lake is already being worked on by the state – and federal involvement is not needed. Ohio EPA officials hear the complaints: “Why is Lake Erie green? Why can’t my grandchildren go swimming in the lake?” But efforts are already underway, Gebhardt said. Based on the marine life in the lake, the shoreline of Lake Erie has already been declared “impaired.” And based on the water treatment steps needed, the areas of Lake Erie around water intakes have been declared “impaired.” The U.S. EPA would like Ohio to designate the Western Lake Erie Basin as impaired, Gebhardt said. But there is currently no science-based criteria for that designation. “We really want to base this on science,” he told the county commissioners. Ohio EPA officials have asked the U.S. EPA to establish “impaired” criteria for open waters. But so far, that has not been done. “We’re saying it’s multi-jurisdictional,” but the U.S. EPA wants each state to set standards, Gebhardt said. “We don’t feel it’s right to establish criteria that is just for Ohio.” “We have to look at the entire lake and not just Ohio’s portion,” he said. Gebhardt’s other concerns about labeling the lake as “impaired” are that “tag” stays with the lake for at least two years and there is no defined process to get rid of that label. “Do we really want the headlines and do we really want people to think it’s always impaired,” he asked. “We just want to be careful that we don’t put a tag on the lake that’s not warranted.” Gebhardt said Ohio EPA and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission already have a plan in place to limit the phosphorus creating algae in the lake. “We don’t really need the feds coming in and putting more regs on us,” he said. The U.S. EPA would require the region to identify sources of phosphorus and address the problem. “We’re already doing that.” An existing Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada has set the scientific standard that phosphorus entering the lake be reduced by 40 percent. That means Canada’s portion must…


Court rules pipeline can’t use eminent domain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A judge ruled this week that one of the pipelines planned in Wood County cannot ride roughshod over local farmland. Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex ruled that Kinder Morgan does not have the authority to use eminent domain since the Utopia pipeline would be transporting ethane for a private company – not for public use. The ruling came as welcome news to many landowners in Wood County, more than 20 of them represented by Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “They can really put the screws to Ohio landowners” and pay them “unfair low rates,” Thompson said of pipeline companies, if eminent domain is used. Thompson had argued that Utopia did not qualify for eminent domain. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan was planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claimed the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. The statement released by the pipeline company on Thursday said the firm isn’t giving up on the project. “We consider the court’s action to be a misinterpretation of existing law, especially in light of the recent Sunoco decision on September 29, 2016 in the 7th District Ohio Court of Appeals (Harrison County), which upheld the use of eminent domain under similar circumstances,” stated Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. “We will appeal today’s decision and are confident of prevailing on appeal,” Fore stated. The pipeline case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in Wood County because Kinder Morgan has sued so many local landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the pipeline company did not explore alternative routes as suggested. The local families had asked that the pipeline company consider placing the line along road right-of-ways, to avoid going through farm fields or housing lots. The Wood County commissioners have also asked the company to consider routing the pipeline along highways to lessen the burden on landowners. Though many of the landowners did not want to speak publicly, Jerry Bruns said earlier this fall that he has no intention of selling out to the pipeline company. His farmland near Pemberville has been in his family since the 1860s. “It’s basically going…