Farm and Dairy’s top 10 stories of 2015

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Ag economy

The year began with a strong likelihood of tight profit margins, and as the year progressed, those margins became event tighter. Ohio saw inclement weather and reduced yields, and issues with the haymaking and wheat harvest. By the end of the year, livestock and dairy margins were tightening up, as well.

Clean water

Water quality continued to be on the minds of farmers, consumers and lawmakers. New restrictions were approved for applying nutrients during winter, and farmers continued to implement voluntary practices. A wet summer led to record algae blooms and nutrient loading, and in the fall, the state was exploring a statewide water quality bond issue.

Bird flu

Since being detected in December 2014, highly pathogenic avian influenza claimed 48.1 million birds in the U.S., with turkeys and egg laying chickens most vulnerable. The outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in the country’s history. On Nov. 18, 2015, the USDA reported the U.S. is free of HPAI, however surveillance continues to be heightened as the fall and winter bird migration continues.

Clean Water Act

The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule May 27, clarifying which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. Most farm groups oppose the rule, worried the interpretation of “waters of the United States” will be broad and intrusive, and expands the federal government’s role. States, agricultural and business industry groups have filed at least 17 lawsuits to stop the implementation.

GMO salmon and the debate over labeling GMO foods

On Nov. 19, the FDA approved the first genetically modified animal cleared for human consumption, salmon. The FDA also said the engineered salmon does not require labeling because there are no material differences between the engineered and normal salmon. The debate over whether to label genetically modified foods continues to be a hot topic in the agriculture industry.

FERC pipelines

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC has been kept busy in 2015 with pipeline proposals to cross Ohio into Michigan. The pipeline construction projects are a direct result of the shale production in Ohio and Pennsylvania. One pipeline plan is to build a 710-mile interstate pipeline known as the ET Rover. The pipelines could reach 42 inches in diameter if the project is completed. Besides ET Rover, the Nexus Pipeline is also a FERC project. It will extend 250 miles and is considered to be a large diameter pipe project which will extend into Michigan.

Shale

Energy prices have plummeted throughout 2015, which has meant a dramatic slow down in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays. Motorists have been enjoying the cheap fill ups at the gas pump with gas prices hovering below $2. However, the low prices haven’t been good for everyone, and it has meant layoffs in the oil, gas and coal industries. The price for a barrel of oil has fallen to under $40 and natural gas prices are the lowest they have been in more than 10 years.

COOL

The country of origin labeling dispute rages on in the United States. Early in December, The World Trade Organization ruled Canada and Mexico could slap more than $1 billion in tariffs on the United States. The ruling was in retaliation for meat labeling rules the U.S.A. was considered to be violating. However, as of mid December, the U.S. Congress reached an agreement on COOL that prevents the tariffs. With Senate passage of the OMINIBUS legislation, the only remaining hurdle to bringing the U.S. into compliance on COOL and avoiding retaliation is the president’s signature.

CAUV changes

Farmers and farm groups argued their case for a new CAUV formula that would more accurately reflect the value of farmland and woodland. The first round of recommendations were implemented, resulting in reduced future valuations. But as the year ended, farmers and lawmakers were seeking additional reforms.

Big Ag Data

While some farmers feel a little skeptical about big ag data the reality is, “there are no real secrets in farming.” In today’s society, there is an app for just about everything and the same is becoming true for agriculture. From electronic records, to apps that identify plant diseases and drones, farmers should take advantage of technology.

 

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Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.

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