Like all other years, a lot has happened in the past 12 months. Take a look at our top 10 stories of 2014.
Propane woes in 2014
The propane fuel that normally lasts into March had dwindled by January, due to a wet fall harvest, pipeline problems and unusually cold weather. At one point, some producers were paying $4.80 for a gallon of propane, and there were some who couldn’t get propane at all. The Ohio Department of Agriculture and Gov. John Kasich stepped in to ensure that livestock operations and homes didn’t go without.
Scientists and the public have grown increasingly concerned about the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria in veterinary and human medicine. In September, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that describes the problem as a national security priority. In November, U.S. ag and veterinary colleges created a task force, chaired by Lonnie King, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State, to advise the public and the federal government on the use of antibiotics in production agriculture.
2014 crop woes
Grain farming in 2014 started with a wet spring, meaning crunch time for farmers to get their crops in the ground. Then, as the season progressed, grain prices fell, with corn prices hitting $3.74 or below at harvest. At harvest time, farmers (when they could get into their wet fields) had to become creative with storage to avoid low market prices or avoid rail line issues, which had trains backed up and not running.
After more than three years of discussion and debate, Congress approved a new five-year farm bill in January 2014, and the president signed it into law in February. The new law ends direct payments, increases producer insurance options, provides a margin protection program for dairy farmers and a safety net for livestock producers.
Water quality was already on the minds of Ohio farmers when 2014 began, with many actively engaged in new ways to control nutrient runoff. In June, the governor signed legislation requiring farmers to be certified to apply fertilizer, and in July, the algae bloom was forecast to be less severe than in previous years. But in August, the conversation changed when Toledo found an unacceptable level of toxin in one of its water treatment plants, resulting in a temporary ban on drinking water and triggering new calls for regulation.
Three years worth of discussions over ways to increase revenues and otherwise overhaul the national beef checkoff program continued in 2014. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack stirred up the proceedings in September, however, by proposing a second supplemental beef checkoff program. The idea met with generally negative feedback from the industry.
Precision agriculture is generating volumes of ‘big data.’ An agreement outlining who owns collected farm production data was reached Nov. 13 by six major farm organizations and six agriculture technology providers. The farm data privacy agreement states, in part, that “collection, access and use of farm data should be granted only with the explicit consent of the farmer.”
A case involving mineral rights versus surface rights had made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. A 2012 case, Jon Walker, Jr. v. John R. Noon, is the first case to go to court over how the 1989 and the 2006 versions of the Ohio Dormant Minerals Act intersect. Landowners await the decision. In Ohio, as of Dec. 23, there are now 1,258 wells drilled in the Utica and 28 in the Marcellus Shale.
In 2014, real estate tax estimates saw some CAUV rates increasing by 300 percent. The CAUV allows farmers to be taxed based on agriculture value. Changes to Ohio’s CAUV tax formula could be coming in 2015, as tax commissioner Joe Testa meets with his agricultural advisory committee in January.
Farm and Dairy’s 100th anniversary
It might not make the CNN headlines, but celebrating our 100th anniversary was kind of a big deal here at Farm and Dairy. Throughout the year, we shared readers’ vintage farm photographs and culminated our celebration with a commemorative issue published Oct. 11. Our anniversary open house Oct. 12 drew more than 400 readers and friends.
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