Agriculture

Dry summer taking toll on crops, lawns, tempers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is parched after getting half its normal summer rainfall this year – leaving yards brown, corn stalks scrawny, and some farmers short on patience. Every once in awhile, the dark clouds build and rain starts hitting the thirsty earth, but most hints of precipitation have turned into a tease. Rainfall for May, June and July in Bowling Green added up to 5.64 inches, according to records kept at the Bowling Green Wastewater Treatment Plant. That is about half of the average 10.7 inches seen here during those three months. The stunted crops and crunchy lawns are the most obvious victims, affecting local farmers and grass mowing businesses. But the hot dry summer has been good for others, like ODOT’s road construction schedule, local swimming pool attendance, and ball seasons that haven’t been disrupted by rain. Bowling Green’s water supply has not been adversely affected since the Maumee River watershed covers a huge area, according to Brian O’Connell, director of utilities for the city. “Even under severe drought conditions, there’s a lot of water that drains into the Maumee River,” O’Connell said. However, the rainfall on individual farm fields has left corn and soybean crops hurting, according to Jonanthan Haines, of the Farm Service Agency. The spring started out strong, he said. “We had the rainfall in April and May. We were actually a little too wet.” Farmers were itching to get their crops in the fields as summer got near. “They had a window to plant at the end of May,” Haines said. There were a handful of dry days, followed by forecasts for spring showers. “Everybody raced to plant.” But the forecast was wrong. “The rain never came,” Haines said. “The spigot was turned off after that.” Some spots in the county have fared a bit better than others, with the driest fields in the southwest corner, he said. The corn may have finally shot upward and started tasseling – but that is somewhat deceptive. It doesn’t mean a healthy crop. “The corn is chest high and tasseling out,” but it should be much higher by this time of the summer, Haines said. Haines is predicting “substantial less” bushels of corn at harvest time this year. Soybeans may be a little more drought resistant since they have more time to make up for the stunted growth and can benefit from August rains. The verdict is already in for the corn. “The corn already decided the number of kernels and how big around the ears are going to be,” he said. One ray of sunshine in this summer of few rain clouds was the wheat production, Haines said. “On the good side, the wheat yields were phenomenal this year.” Meanwhile, the long dry spell has been good news to the…


Conservation grants offered to local farmers

Farmers in the watersheds of the Portage and Toussaint rivers are eligible for funds to reduce the amount of nutrients that migrate from their fields to nearby waterways. The grant is through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is being administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Wood and Ottawa counties. TMACOG will document costs to farmers and monitor the grants. Applications are being accepted now through Aug. 15 only at Wood County and Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Farms must be within either the Portage or Toussaint River watershed which also includes parts of Sandusky and Hancock counties. The grants will reimburse farmers for three agricultural best practices: variable rate technology with cover crops, water control structures, and blind inlet filters. Variable rate technology (VRT) measures nutrients present in the soil and then delivers only the amount of fertilizer necessary for optimum yield. Under the terms of the grant, farmers will be reimbursed for planting winter cover crops with VRT technology. Farmers will test soil in a three-acre grid or less. The information is mapped in a GIS system and linked to the application of fertilizer. Farmers will be reimbursed for both the cost of the fertilizer and the cost of the cover crop. Water control structures are essentially control valves that are placed on a drainage tile main line. By adjusting the stopper boards – essentially raising a dam in a drainage tile – ground water can be held back in the field in the root zone where plants can utilize the nutrients that may have otherwise been flushed out. Blind inlets are a filter system that is another way of controlling surface runoff into drainage tile. With a blind inlet, the runoff passes through engineered drainage soil which facilitates the processing of nutrients in the water.  


Arps Dairy milks its story to secure its place in the market

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Lambert Vandermade milks cows for a living. He bottles milk for hobby. And that means he also has to tell a story. Vandermade, president of Arps Dairy, told his story of how a Netherlands-born dairyman came to own a long-standing Ohio business and what he envisions for the future at the July Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum Thursday morning.  The event was hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation. Vandermade came to Northwest Ohio with his family from the Netherlands 16 years ago as they searched for a way to grow their family dairy business. In the Netherlands, he said, land is a scarce resource. The country is a third the size of Ohio. In the Netherlands, the family had 60 cows and raised 200 sows.  They did the work themselves with no employees. The European quota system, now ended, meant they were assured of making a small amount of money from the milk. The pigs provided more chance for profit. When they came to Ohio, after investigating other areas of the country, they started with 600 cows, “created 10 jobs” and were introduced to a federally regulated system so complex, Vandermade said, “I still understand about half of it.” The Vandermades now milk 1,400, cows on two farms in Defiance County, one devoted to maintaining older cows. “Dairy is a very complicated market,” Vandermade said. “The market has shrunk down to a very few, very large companies.” That puts a particular burden on the milk processor. Large retailers use milk as a loss leader. Low milk prices lure shoppers in the door. But that makes it hard for small companies like Arps to compete, he said. Vandermade’s frustration with the marketplace led him to wonder: “Can we lay a better link between the farmer and the consumer? The consumer is becoming further removed from the farmer and were not doing anything to bridge that gap.” With that in mind, Vandermade approached the Arps Dairy, which still maintained that link. Nothing came of those initial talks, so the Vandermades pursued another project, building the spread for older cows, about five years old, as a way of extending their productive life. It is good for the business, which pays $1,800 to raise a cow to the point she starts producing milk, and good for the animal. Then with that project well underway, he got a call: Arps Dairy was for sale. “It figures,” he said ruefully.  He and his wife joined several others including Ida Arps, “the last of Arps family,” and purchased the dairy. Vandermade said he knew they would not be able to compete on a large scale with the major retailers. “We’ve really been trying to work on our story,” he said.  “People want to know where…


Making migrant workers feel at home in Wood County

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The workers who come into Wood County to pick crops may be here for just a few weeks, but La Conexion de Wood County wants them to know they have a friend while they are here. On Sunday La Conexion and the First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green welcomed migrant workers at an event held at a camp in Bloomdale. They didn’t go empty handed. The Brown Bag Food Project came with boxes of food to tide them over until their first paycheck. The Wood County District Public Library staff was on hand with books and activities for the children. The Cocoon Shelter was there to offer its support. The event, now in its third year, was initiated by the church as a way of working with La Conexion, which works out of the downtown Bowling Green Church. Beatriz Maya, the managing director of La Conexicion, said that about 200 workers “at most” are now in Wood County. The numbers of migrants arriving has been declining as agriculture has mechanized and the mix of crops grown locally has changed. Now the demand is for people to pick cucumbers. Those jobs last for about six weeks, then the workers will be off to Michigan to pick apples or to Georgia or Florida to harvest other crops. As the number of crops in a region diminishes it becomes less worthwhile for workers to travel at their own expense to a place to harvest. Though their numbers are down they still have needs, she said, and La Conexion wants to help meet them either directly or by connecting them with other service groups. Maya said she has been trying to help facilitate the workers signing up for Medicaid. Though a federal program, the health program for children and the poor is administered by states, so whenever the workers move to new fields, they must give up Medicaid coverage in one state and sign up again in a new state. That means more detailed paperwork, submitting documents and waiting periods, that in Wood County can take longer than a family’s residency in the county. Last summer, she said, a child was hurt while playing, and had to go to the emergency room, but the family had no medical coverage. “We’re working with Jobs and Family Services to see if we can change the scheduling a little bit,” Maya said. That’s the kind of service La Conexion provides to Latinos in the county throughout the year. She said the forms needed to register for school are daunting enough for native English speakers, but for non-English speakers they can appear nearly impossible. La Conexion has worked with the school district to translate many of those forms. Maya said the group also advocates for services such as the hospital to provide…


Drought conditions may restrict growth of algae in Lake Erie

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Dry weather is keeping the algae blooms in Lake Erie at bay. The lack of rainfall means little run off into the Maumee River leading into the lake. The runoff is the main source of phosphorus that feeds the algae growth. The phosphorus in the runoff largely comes from the fertilizer that farmers use on their fields. Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a prediction for a less severe algae bloom in the western Lake Erie Basin. On hand at the announcement were Bowling Green State University researchers Michael McKay, director of the BGSU marine program, and George Bullerjahn, professor of biological sciences. That prediction, they said during an interview on Friday, is good as it stands, but is subject to change. If it starts pouring, Bullerjahn said, the algae could be back. “We’re relying on luck and nature,” McKay said. Whether an algae bloom develops into a toxic algae bloom like the one that closed down the Toledo region’s water system in 2014 depends on many factors – wind, heat and the presence of nitrogen, another key ingredient in fertilizer. The extent of that algae bloom, Bullerjahn said, was moderate, but it had high levels of the toxin microcystin. That crisis sent people in the region scrambling for water and scientists, officials and politicians scrambling for solutions. However, “we can’t predict how toxic a bloom will be,” Bullerjahn said. There’s no correlation between how green a bloom is and how toxic it is. Earlier this year a toxic bloom occurred in the Maumee River near Defiance, forcing that city to resort to its back up reservoir for water. As a result of the 2014 crisis, a goal was set last year to reduce phosphorus in the lake by 40 percent. “There’s growing agreement this will bring blooms to a manageable level,” Bullerjahn said. He said scientists are optimistic the goal can be reached. Certainly there will be some hardship, he said, “but nobody’s going crazy.” It will take time. “Don’t expect this to be reached soon,” McKay said. McKay said a first step is to identify “hot spots” where a large amount of phosphorus is being released. In those areas farmers can apply the fertilizer underneath the surface of the field mitigating the run off. Also, a return to the old practice of planting winter cover crops such as rye would help since those crops would absorb more of the nutrients in the soil. Also, farmers can leave more buffer areas between fields and streams and the river, he said. Bullerjahn said he would hope incentives to help farmers take these steps could be offered. Many farmers are being proactive, he said. Bullerjahn said fertilizer use has already declined. Probably, McKay noted, because of price. These measures should be enough, though,…


Fair building to be fit for cattle and catered dinners

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Fairgrounds is packed with people for a few days each summer. The rest of the year, it’s pretty much a ghost town. But the fair board has a plan to change that – building a $3.2 million year-round facility made to handle both smelly livestock shows and fancy catered dinners. “We want to put the fairgrounds on the map for year-round use, rather than just six days,” Matt Hughes, of Fair Funding, said to the Wood County commissioners on Thursday. Hughes said the acreage at the corner of West Poe and Haskins roads hosts about 125,000 visitors each year for the county fair. A few days after the fair, the grounds are flooded for the National Tractor Pulling Championships. Other than that, you can hear crickets chirping. But to make the 46,000-square-foot building a reality, Hughes said donations are being sought from every possible source. And Thursday, he made a pitch to the county commissioners as one of those possible sources. “Our hope is you folks would consider a partnership,” he said. “A lot of your population has an interest in the fair,” Hughes said. The fundraising has been going on now about 60 days, with approximately $750,000 secured so far, Hughes said. Those organizing the project are looking for one-time donations, annual contributions, in-kind materials or services and endowments. Hughes told the commissioners the county fairs that are going to still exist in 20 years are those that think beyond the six days of the fair, and plan “beyond bake sales.” He said the commissioners’ help with construction or ongoing maintenance would be helpful. The proposed multi-purpose building will have a dozen 24- by 16-foot garage doors, a catering kitchen, heating and air conditioning so it can be used year-round. The site will be rented out, and will be able to seat 2,000 for dining. To make room of the new facility, the five buildings north of the Fine Arts Building will be torn down. Construction will take six to eight months to complete. Commissioner Doris Herringshaw asked how the same site will be able to host both cattle and catered dinners. “What about the aroma in the air you might not want to have when you have a banquet,” she asked. Hughes said all the garage doors will be open during livestock shows, allowing the odors to dissipate. The large doors “make the building so functional,” he said. The garage doors will also allow big pieces of equipment, like farm combines or recreation vehicles, to be displayed in the building during winter events. The site could also be used for winter horse shows. “The idea is to build it and get as many people in it as possible,” Hughes said. Retired Wood County commissioner Jim Carter attended…


Conservation district seeks nominees for annual awards

From THE WOOD SOIL & CONSERVATION DISTRICT The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is accepting nominations for the Harold and Ida Lou Bordner Farm Beautification Award and the Backyard Conservationist Award. Sponsored in part by The Andersons, Inc. and in memory of Harold and Ida Lou Bordner, the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District recognizes Wood County rural landowners and famers for utilizing conservation practices and maintaining the appearance and structures of the original farmstead. As you drive through the countryside, take note of the home sites which catch your attention. Is there a rain barrel or composter? Is there a windbreak or prairie grasses? Are original buildings maintained? Submit your nominations to the Wood SWCD office (1616 E. Wooster St. Suite 32 Bowling Green, OH 43402 or julielause@woodswcd.com) no later than July 18. The winning home sites will be awarded at the Wood SWCD Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet held on September 10, 2016 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Northwest Agricultural Research Station, 4240 Range Line Road Custar, OH 43511.


Ohio seeking new signature food products to develop

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY Ever think of starting your own food business but didn’t know where to start? Have family and friends raved about your unique dish at gatherings? Or do you have access to local ingredients and always considered a value-added product? If so, consider applying to the Ohio Signature Food Contest as a method to transform a dream into reality. Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the contest will showcase potential new, innovative products from across the state. Products do not need to be fully designed or ready for market, rather an ability to communicate a specific vision. To complete the online entry form along with rules/regulations (deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 2016), visit: https://form.jotform.com/60665036576158


Advice offered to farmers interested in harvesting the sun

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When it comes to deciding whether to install solar panels on the farm, it’s more complicated that just letting the sun shine in. Eric Romich, a field specialist in energy development for the Ohio State University Extension Service, had to go deep in the weeds to answer the simple question: What’s the payback? He addressed that question Thursday at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum. It all depends, he said. It depends on energy needs and regulations, and, yes, politics. Depends certainly on what the solar installer says. It also depends on what the utility representative says, and what the farmer’s accountant and, maybe, the attorney, have to say. “This works,” Romich said. “I’ve known a lot of farmers that have installed (solar panels) and they’re happy with them.” Those who were happy, he said, were those who viewed them as long-term investment, 30 years or so. Those who expected a quick financial return on the investment were not satisfied. In 2008, more than 11,000 farms had solar installations. Just four years later that was up to 34,000. Still despite the increase in solar production, Romich said, “it’s still a drop in the bucket” when it comes to total electricity production. Farmers considering adding solar have a lot to consider. Every farm and installation is unique, Romich said. While farmers should consider multiple proposals, evaluating those can be difficult. The cost should be considered independent of federal incentives, including grants and low-interest loans. Only a third of applications secure that kind of funding. And the grant can be considered taxable income. They need to make sure that the estimate includes cost of operating, maintenance and insurance. True, solar collectors are relatively simple and typically have warranties, but anything that’s around for 20 years is probably going to need maintenance. These projects can generate solar energy credits that in turn can be sold through brokers to utilities that need to meet state threshold of renewable energy. But the price of the credits “has really taken a dive.” For one thing, more solar power is being produced. Just like with corn, greater supply leads to lower prices. Also, in 2008, Ohio enacted the 25 by ’25 standard that called for 25 percent of the state’s energy to be produced by alternative or advanced sources by 2025. Then in 2014, those goals were frozen for three years. Once that freeze was put in place the rate for credits have decreased. Now new legislation introduced in the state senate would freeze them for another three years. “Policy is fluid,” Romich said. “Policy impacts payback.” No installation should be made with the assumption that policy will be the same even in five years. “To get full value” from the energy produced, Romich said, “you need to use it.” Then…