Friday, June 28, 2013

ECOFA meeting on July 3rd

Musical Elements of Birdsong
NEW PHILADELPHIA, OHIO – The July 3 meeting of the East Central Ohio Forestry Association (ECOFA) will feature Dr. Lisa Rainsong, a professor at Cleveland Institute of Music and naturalist.  The 8 PM program will feature recordings of birds from northeast Ohio and describe how their songs relate to musical concepts.

ECOFA is an organization of persons interested in improving their woodlands and in forestry-related topics.   The public is cordially invited to attend the free meetings which are held monthly at McDonald-Marlite Lewis Conference Center, 143 McDonald Drive NW in New Philadelphia.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

U.S. EPA Says Federal Chemical Reporting Law Still Applies To Ohio Oil And Gas Industry

A host of environmental groups touted a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday that indicates Ohio's oil and gas laws may conflict with federal statutes designed to give first responders ready access to chemical information during industrial emergencies.  Environmentalists said the letter was proof that Ohio lawmakers allowed the oil and gas industry to dodge chemical disclosure requirements of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and urged the General Assembly to enact legislation to bring Ohio into compliance.  "The Ohio legislature can do the right thing and voluntarily amend the laws to comply with EPCRA or we can file suit" and force the state to comply, said Teresa Mills, of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, who petitioned the U.S. EPA to investigate the issue earlier this spring.  The oil and gas industry insists that operators do comply with federal chemical reporting requirements, where they apply, and says Ohio's system is more user-friendly for emergency responders.

The U.S. EPA letter to Ms. Mills says Ohio law allows oil and gas facilities to comply with EPCRA by filing log and production statements rather than a chemical inventory form.  "While this alternate compliance method appears to be considered compliance with ORC Chapter 3750, the Ohio law does not designate (or attempt to designate) alternate compliance methods for the federal EPCRA law. Simply stated, the ORC Chapter 3750 does not supersede EPCRA," wrote U.S. EPA Superfund Division Director Richard Karl.  EPCRA requires facilities that have hazardous chemicals present in amounts larger than the minimum threshold level to submit chemical inventory forms to the State Emergency Response Commission, the local emergency planning committee, and the local fire department every year, he said.  Similarly, Ohio law outlining procedures for protecting oil and gas producers' chemical information as trade secrets do not supersede EPCRA, Mr. Karl said.  U.S. EPA opened an investigation into a leak at an oil and gas facility in St. Marys as a result of Ms. Mills' inquiry, he said in the letter.

U.S. EPA spokesman Josh Singer said in an email that the letter does not state that the Ohio law was out of compliance with EPCRA, but simply clarifies that the federal law still applies.

Ms. Mills said a local news report on the leaking well at St. Marys shows that first responders don't have the information they need to adequately respond to potential emergencies.  A little-noticed 2001 budget amendment essentially exempted the oil and gas industry from EPCRA reporting requirements by allowing operators' standard annual filing with the Department of Natural Resources to satisfy the mandate, she said during a news conference. However, the production report contains no information about the toxic chemicals that emergency agencies might actually face on site, she added.  Furthermore, legislation enacted last session (SB315, 129th General Assembly) put "undue burden" on physicians seeking information about fracking chemicals that might be affecting a patient, she said. That law effectively allows oil companies to determine which chemicals are protected trade secrets, rather than the U.S. EPA director, as required by EPCRA.

ODNR and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued a joint statement saying the agencies are currently looking into the issue.  "U.S. EPA has determined state law does not supersede federal reporting requirements under EPCRA. The state is reviewing U.S. EPA's determination and we will soon be discussing this with the companies affected to ensure they are in compliance with their reporting obligations under state and federal law."

Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Tom Stewart said no one in the industry disagrees that federal law supersedes state statutes.  However, EPCRA applies to major industrial operations and most oil and gas producers in Ohio don't meet the threshold that requires compliance with its reporting procedures, he said. "EPCRA wasn't designed for some oil and gas well out there in the countryside."  High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations that are tapping into Ohio's deep shale formations are likely complying if they exceed the threshold, he added.

 Mr. Stewart said the oil and gas industry worked with OEPA and ODNR years ago to devise a more transparent and effective emergency response system based on the reports that drillers already had to submit to the state.  The measure was designed to respond to concerns from local responders who previously had to store boxes of documents, he said. The agencies didn't have the time to sort through the information when called on to respond to an emergency situation at an oil and gas well.  "Instead of putting pieces of paper in boxes in the basement of some fire department, we worked with ODNR to provide more immediate, complete access for emergency responders," he said.  Now the information is posted on the state's website, which allows local authorities to quickly access specific information about what chemicals are present at the site, Mr. Stewart said. "They like that stuff, instead of having this fire hazard in their own basement."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Obama Details Climate Plan, Seeks Major Carbon Emission Cut

President Barack Obama Tuesday outlined a series of executive-level steps that he said strive to minimize the release of carbon emissions and enhance the diversity of energy sources across the country.  The president's announcement, which focuses on minimizing climate change, drew support from Ohio-based environmentalists and opposition from GOP members of the state's congressional delegation.  While the White House said no single step can reverse climate change, officials have "a moral obligation" to take action to improve conditions for future generations. Among other things, the plan establishes new rules to cut carbon pollution by directing the U.S. EPA to work with states, industry and others to create carbon standards for new and existing power plants.

The plan also:
Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantees available to support fossil energy and efficiency projects; Directs the U.S. Department of Interior to permit enough renewable projects to provide power for 6 million homes by 2020; Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons by 2030.
The administration also said it will push for similar agreements with China, India and other major emitters.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said in a statement the "overreach" has already cost Ohio jobs.  "At least eight coal fired power plants in Ohio are set to close due in large part to regulatory mandates put in place by the EPA," he said in a statement. "As a result, nearly a thousand Ohio jobs will be directly impacted, local communities will lose millions in tax revenue, and more than 6,000 megawatts - enough energy to power thousands of homes - will be taken off the grid."  "America does not need another top-down climate mandate by its Federal government; instead it needs a low-cost energy plan that ensures we have access to reliable, affordable and cleaner domestic energy," he said.  Reach Senator Portman here:

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said he was "deeply troubled" by the announcement that he said escalates a "war on coal."  "These new regulations will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and cripple businesses across the United States that rely on affordable and dependable coal-provided energy. In my district alone, we have six coal-fired power plants that are now in jeopardy," he said. "The President is, once again, stifling free-markets and meddling with our economy.  "While I certainly agree that we should embrace alternative energies, they cannot be the only sources we rely on to power our economy," Mr. Johnson added.  Reach Congressman Johnson here:

Conversely, Brian Kaiser, director of green jobs and innovation at the Ohio Environmental Council welcomed the announcement.   "The time for talk has passed, it's time for action," he said. "President Obama's plan is a responsible and significant step towards a healthier planet and a stronger economy."  A coalition of Ohio environmental groups, including National Wildlife Federation in Ohio, Sierra Club in Ohio and Audubon Ohio, offered support.  "We applaud President Obama for laying out a broad and common-sense plan for meeting our obligation to protect future generations from climate change," the groups said. "Americans are feeling the impacts of climate change already from destructive and deadly storms like Hurricane Sandy, to droughts and wildfires. President Obama's decision to take action to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time ever is particularly important since power plants are the largest unlimited source of carbon pollution and cleaning them up is key to protecting Americans from the impacts of climate change."

Ohio Forage and Grassland Council’s Sheep Grazing Management Tour

Sheep producers and grazing enthusiasts are invited to participate in the annual Ohio Forage and Grassland Council’s Sheep Grazing Management Tour.  The tour this year will be held July 12, 2013 in Holmes County.  The chartered bus tour will be held in the beautiful Charm area of Holmes County.  The tour will include visits of four Amish sheep farms, lunch and refreshments.

Topics to be discussed on the farms include information for the beginning sheep producer using low-cost start-up practices, cool-season pasture species, warm season annual grasses, sheep mineral needs, fencing, rotational pasture management, breeding management and marketing.  Each farm is different and they will explain and share how their sheep production system works for their farm and family.

Resource people for the day; along with the host farmers will be Bob Hendershot of Green Pasture Services, Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension Morrow County, Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Wayne County and Troyce Barnett, Ohio NRCS grasslands specialist.  They will be available all day to help lead the discussion and answer questions.

Pre-registration is required and is limited to the first 100 people.  Thanks to the financial sponsorship from the Ohio Sheep and Wool Program and the Ohio Forage and Grassland Council, the cost is only $35 per person.  Ohio Forage and Grassland Council members will receive a $10 rebate on the bus.  The Ohio Heartland Sheep Improvement Association has planned the tour and is handling registration.  Registrations must be received by July 1, 2013.  No refunds after July 1.  Send reservations to Velda Limbach, 14950 Stanwood Street, S.W., Dalton,  OH 44618; include name, address phone number and email with the check made payable to OHSIA.

Check-in for the bus tour will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the back parking lot of Keim Lumber located at 4465 SR 557 Charm, Ohio 44617.  The buses will leave promptly at 9 a.m. from Keim Lumber. Lunch will be served at the Carpenter’s CafĂ© located inside Keim Lumber.

For more information contact Rory Lewandowski at the Wayne County Extension office 33-264-8722.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ohio 5th nationally in maple syrup production

The combination of extremely favorable sap conditions and a long sap run in 2013 resulted in a very good year for maple syrup production in Ohio. According to the Ohio field office of the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), the record 155,000 gallons produced, topped the previous record set in 2011 by 24 percent.
Nationally, 2013 production totaled 3.25 million gallons, up 70 percent for the previous year.
Ohio ranks number five in maple syrup production, producing five percent of the total U.S. production.
Ohio maple syrup production by the numbers:
Total taps – 440,000
Syrup yield per tap – .352 gallons

Monday, June 24, 2013

Have fun and stay healthy!

Ohio Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture officials reminded Ohioans this week to practice proper hygiene this summer when attending livestock exhibits.  "With fair season upon us, we want to remind folks that some illnesses, such as influenza viruses, are commonly carried by livestock and can be directly transmitted between animals and humans in the same way those illnesses are often transmitted between people," ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a release.  The agencies urged individuals to wash their hands before and after touching any animal, as well as to refrain from eating in animal areas. Pregnant women, young children and Ohioans with weak immune systems are encouraged to avoid animal areas, as well.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ohio Supreme Court Accepts Lawsuit Challenging State's Monopoly On Oil, Gas Drilling Oversight

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review a lawsuit questioning whether local municipalities can regulate oil and gas drilling within their borders.  By accepting the case, the justices could pass judgment on state statute that gives the Department of Natural Resources' oil and gas division sole authority to oversee energy drilling.  Ravenna-based Beck Energy Corp. filed the suit against the city of Munroe Falls after city officials issued a stop-work order on a well because the company lacked local permits for drilling, zoning, and rights-of-way construction.

A trial court ruled in favor of the city, but the Ninth District Court of Appeals overturned that decision in February.   The appeals court decision said the case appears to be an issue of first impression, meaning it's a question of law with no controlling precedent.  The Ohio Supreme Court voted 6-1 to accept the case, according to a court announcement. Justice Terrence O'Donnell was the lone "no" vote.

Bee-friendly garden ideas

Q. Are there any simple measures I can take in my everyday life to help stop (or even just slow) the disappearance of bees?

A. There are! In a word: Give bees a place to live and pollinate. That is, host them right in your backyard. The poor critters are getting pushed out of all sorts of places, thanks to urban and suburban development, but there are several simple actions you can take to make them feel right at home in your garden or on your lawn.

Bee-tox: The first thing to do is to detox your lawn. Give your chem lawn type landscape service its walking papers. Pollinators are a fragile bunch, and many native bees nest in the ground, so lawn company insecticides will really do them in.  Even organic services may use natural products like pyrethrins, which are labeled for organic use, but can still kill pollinators. Think your modest little lawn isn’t big enough to make a difference? Think again. Urban gardens and backyards use more insecticide per acre than conventional farm land does.

Flower child: Think blossoms. Grow lots of different kinds of flowering plants on your property, so that at any given time from early spring right through to autumn there will be at least three or four species in bloom. Trees, shrubs, and wild flowers will all do just fine. Some recommendations: Willow for early springtime flowering, locust for early summer, basswood, linden (which produces tons of pollen and nectar), native raspberries, elderberry, native roses, lupines, asters, goldenrod, blackeyed susans, sage, sunflower, and buckwheat. Where you can, plant these in clumps so that the flowering area is more than 3ft by 3ft to make them more attractive. And if you’re allergic to pollen, don’t panic. Most people who get allergic reactions during pollen season are reacting negatively to airborn pollen (from plants like ragweed), and not from the big, sticky types of pollen you’ll find in the above species.

Bare all: Incorporate small areas of bare soil into your garden or lawn. Bees like to nest where there’s a little open space on the ground, and are more likely to move in and enjoy your prime real estate if they feel they’ve got room to breathe.

Tunnel vision: Some native bees nest not in the ground, but in hollowed out vertical structures, like tree trunks. Help these guys out by drilling narrow holes (5/16 inch or less) five inches down through blocks of wood, then setting the blocks out on your property. Home sweet home.

Let your lawn go: If you’re not too vain about the appearance of your lawn, leave an out of the way corner of it undisturbed and untidy. Think tall grasses, piles of sticks, general horticultural chaos. The mess will invite mice to set up house, and when they leave, bees will move into the nice insulated little cavity-homes they’ve dug out.  This area can also provide cover for rabbits, ground squirrels and other small wildlife to your backyard.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lawmakers Want Crackdown On Frack Waste Dumping

A bipartisan pair of senators argued for increased penalties on oil and gas operators who illegally dump drilling waste Wednesday, as House Democrats called for hiking the severance tax substantially to help fund for education, local governments, and conservation.  While the Senate legislation appears to have at least some interest from majority Republicans, neither bill is likely to move any time soon.
Sen. Frank LaRose and Sen. Joe Schiavoni  told the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee their proposal to allow the state to revoke and deny drilling permits for those who violate waste disposal laws (SB 46) was a response to recent incidents.

Sen. Schiavoni recalled that earlier this year, the owner of D&L Energy was accused of illegally dumping as much as 20,000 gallons of drilling waste into a storm sewer feeding directly into the Mahoning River.  "As you can imagine, many Mahoning Valley residents were outraged and disheartened by this incident," he said, noting that D&L has a history of at least 120 violations in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  More recently, another incident of illegal dumping occurred on a Belmont County farm, he said. "Furthermore, the reality is that history has shown that those who choose to act improperly within this sector tend to repeatedly violate."  The legislation would punish violators, but still allow the state's "new and exciting oil and gas industry" to flourish, he said. Ohio's shale drilling boom has the potential to reverse decades of decline and stagnation in Youngstown, Sen. Schiavoni added.

Sen. LaRose said the vast majority of oil and gas operators comply with proper disposal requirements and argued the proposal would help preserve the industry's good reputation with Ohioans.  He said the bill would increase penalties for knowingly dumping oil and gas waste to a felony with up to three years imprisonment and fines between $10,000 and $50,000 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses would be punishable by fines between $20,000 and $100,000 or six years in prison, he added, noting the penalties matched those in the federal Clean Water Act.  Sen. LaRose said other provisions would: authorize the chief of the Division of Oil and Gas to deny a new permit to an applicant who failed to fix a substantial violation and prevents them from securing a permit by applying under a different name or business; allow the chief to suspend activities of anyone, rather than only the owner and imposes a timeframe for problems to be remedied; and allow courts to impose a sentence requiring violators reimburse states and political subdivisions.

Responding to a question from Sen. Cliff Hite, Sen. LaRose said the owner of D&L Energy was being prosecuted under federal law because authorities found the state version was inadequate. "We don't want to have to rely on that, on the federal statute."  Sen. Hite asked if a company employs "one bad actor," would the owner also be implicated in a violation. Sen. Schiavoni said he didn't think so because the legislation would require the individual "knowingly" violate the law.

Sen. Kris Jordan asked how the bill would affect other people that don't violate the law. "It seems like every time something bad happens it's the tendency of government to sort of steal freedom for the rest of the people."  Sen. LaRose said the joint sponsors worked to "minimize red tape." He noted permit applicants would have to submit more information, such as the names of key employees and any past violations to ensure the state could prevent them from operating in the future if they are caught dumping illegally.  The bill would impose no additional costs on the industry, he told Sen. Jordan. Rather it would ensure that the state could recoup the costs of remedying contamination, which would save taxpayers money, he added.  "The only freedom that we're taking away here is the freedom of the wrongdoer," Sen. Schiavoni said.

Chairman Sen. Troy Balderson said he didn't plan to hold any more hearings on the bill at least until after the summer recess.  "We're going to study this a little bit more, reach out in the districts, get with the locals, and meet with ODNR. There's really been no interested party meetings or anything," he said in an interview. "That gives us time to reach out to people and start having conversations. That's why we wanted to get this process started." (Senator Balderson represents Guernsey County and Ohio Senate District 20)  His website, where you can find contact information, can be found here:

EPA study on fracking threat to water will take years

CLEVELAND: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is analyzing the threat that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to drinking water, but that study won’t be completed until 2016.

Read rest of article here:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

EPA plan caps water pollutants from power plants

Like other coal-fired power plants, the Cardinal plant along the Ohio River has huge scrubbers and other devices to trap toxic air pollutants and stay within federal clean-air limits.

But when it comes to water quality, American Electric Power’s Cardinal and most other coal-fired power plants across the nation face no state or federal limits on the mercury, lead, cadmium and other toxins they can dump in streams, rivers and lakes.
Read rest of article here:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Loosestrife mapping help needed

CHIP-N (the Central Hardwoods Invasive Plant Network) and the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership are working together to coordinate the volunteer mapping of purple loosestrife in the Ohio River Basin.  This data will help local and regional managers determine the best management strategies and identify possible biocontrol release points.  Purple loosestrife is very easy to identify from July-September and would take minimal effort to report it while conducting other activities (water sampling, surveying, canoeing, hiking, etc).  If you are interested in participating, please contact Eric Boyda (, 740-534-6578) and he will forward you on more information about what data to collect and how to easily identify purple loosestrife.

USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Support Small-Socially Disadvantaged Producers

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is seeking applications from cooperatives to provide technical assistance to small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers in rural areas. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
"These grants will jump start small business hiring and help producers in areas facing economic challenges get the tools they need to succeed," Vilsack said. "Small businesses are the engines of job growth and innovation in America."
Funding will be made available through USDA Rural Development's Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant program (SSDPG). The maximum grant award is $200,000.
The grants assist producers like Frank Taylor who returned home after college and established the Winston County Self-Help Cooperative in Mississippi, a consortium of local farmers that pool their resources to receive training in business development, conservation and health. The Cooperative also has a youth program, which teaches skills to the next generation of Winston County farmers. The Winston County Self-Help Cooperative, whose motto is "Saving Rural America," has received USDA funding to expand operations into the surrounding counties of central Mississippi.
The SSDPG and other USDA business and cooperative development programs have had a significant impact on rural communities. In 2012 alone, they helped almost 10,000 rural small business owners or farmers improve their enterprises. Business and cooperative program funding created or saved an estimated 53,000 rural jobs in 2012.
Eligible applicants include cooperatives, groups of cooperatives, and cooperative development centers where a majority of the governing board or board of directors is comprised of individuals who are members of socially disadvantaged groups. Small, socially disadvantaged producers include farmers, ranchers, loggers, agricultural harvesters, and fishermen that have averaged $250,000 or less in annual gross sales of agricultural products in the last three years. Producers will be able to conduct market research, product and/or service improvement, feasibility studies, training, and implement business plans.
The application deadline for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grants is July 15, 2013 for paper applications and July 10, 2013 for electronic applications. For additional information on how to apply, see the June 12 Federal Register, page 35239, or visit
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

Monday, June 17, 2013

New Local Severance Tax Plan Remains Tough Sell To GOP Lawmakers

The legislature has twice rejected Gov. John Kasich's proposal to raise the oil and gas severance tax, but the administration hasn't given up on the idea and hopes local officials can help push for inclusion of a new version in the conference committee report later this month.  Legislative Republicans, however, appear no more enamored with the new plan to give local governments a cut of the revenue than they were with previous iterations.  Under the administration's latest plan, the severance tax rate on high-volume horizontal shale wells would increase from the current 3 cents per MCF to 1.0% of the average price of product produced each quarter for natural gas, according to the Office of Budget and Management. Severance tax rates on oil and natural gas liquids from shale wells would increase from the current $0.20 per barrel to 4.5% after a 1.5% introductory rate during the first year to help operators absorb the cost to drill new wells.  One-quarter of the severance tax revenue, which OBM estimates will amount to $375 million through 2018, would be returned to Appalachian counties, where the shale drilling boom is occurring. The remaining 75% would be dedicated for a personal income tax cut.

House Republicans have opposed the governor's attempt to hike the severance tax out of concern that it could stall the new drilling boom in Ohio's Utica Shale. The revamped proposal to earmark revenue for local governments appears unlikely to change their position.  Rep. Jeff McClain, a member of the upcoming conference committee on the biennial budget, said members are still considering a wide variety of ideas to raise revenue to pay for a larger tax cut, but a severance tax hike is not one of them.  "There's been very little discussion about the severance tax," he said in an interview.  Republicans are still trying to figure out how to cut both business income taxes and personal income taxes without a major expansion of the sales tax, as Gov. Kasich proposed in his version of the budget.  "If there's going to be some kind of agreement on the business-side tax cut and the personal income tax cut, how are you going to pay for it? There's been all kinds of discussions on that," Rep. McClain said, adding that a severance tax increase is not high on the list of options.  "Basically everything else has been thrown up on the wall. Now a lot of stuff, you look at it and say, 'No, that's not going to work,'" he said. "We've really not come to any completion yet."

The proposal would charge a bipartisan commission, in partnership with the local Appalachian leaders and residents, to fairly apply the new severance tax revenue to build sustained prosperity for the region, OBM said. "Local stakeholders would be brought together to continually advance opportunity in Appalachian Ohio, even long down the road when shale resources may no longer be as productive."  Seventy-five percent of the local share severance tax revenue would be proportionally allocated for areas experiencing direct impacts from shale drilling activities, based on the number of wells drilled and actively producing, as determined by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The remaining 25% would go to the areas of the Ohio Appalachian Regional Commission's Local Development Districts.

The County Commissioners' Association of Ohio has said it supports the plan to increase the severance tax, as long as counties have a say in how the revenue is spent.  "We also support a direct and efficient manner for the monies to be given to local jurisdictions, such as a community development block grant model with funds coming to counties for distribution to local jurisdictions," the group said in a recent legislative update. "The association does not support funds going through port authorities or local development districts for distribution purposes."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Food waste challenge issued

Americans tossed an estimated 133 billion pounds of food in 2010, roughly between 30 and 40 percent of the entire food supply, according to data compiled by the USDA.  Food is the largest component of landfill waste, comprising more than 20 percent of all weight!  Read about efforts in Ohio to reduce the amount of food waste that enters landfills. Noble Correction Institution is an innovator in this effort.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Before signing a pipeline contract

Farm owners must carefully consider the specifics of their land, but there are also a number of considerations with regard to the contract itself when making a decision about a pipeline easement on the property.

“There is no such thing as a group contract. Each one of these agreements is with an individual landowner and an energy service company,” said said Dale Arnold, director of Energy Services for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “You can group negotiate, but there is no group easement. You still have the opportunity to negotiate the contracts based on the individual needs of the farm. The ability to negotiate separate agreements is much greater than it was just a couple of years ago. You can tweak the agreements to fill your unique needs. I would not sign anything until I see an exact map of where this right of way is going to go, including GPS coordinates.”

An easement contract involves the right to use property of another without possessing it. The contract could be temporary, perpetual or both and ownership of land (as well as tax obligations) remains with the landowner. Arnold also suggests that landowners consider the following with regard to a pipeline contract:

• Does a new easement conflict with an existing easement on the property?

• Are there USDA, CRP, CREP or other farm program obligations on the property?

• Identifying clearly the farm property in question and avoid “blanket” language.

• Specifying access, road width and size of construction site.

• Limiting the placement of additional infrastructure on the property.

• The landowner has the right/option to require burying lines at a desired depth due to specifics of tile lines and other underground infrastructure, though general guidelines are typically acceptable.

• The width of both the temporary construction project and the final easement.

• Clarifying/restricting if and where compressor station, metering equipment and/or other pipeline support infrastructure is placed on right of way and property.

• Limiting right of way to a single pipeline — no additional infrastructure.

• Limiting pipeline to a single substance.

• Addressing how company will access the property for inspection and routine maintenance and identifying times when company should not enter area.

• Addressing the handling of landowner damages and disruptions including wording that makes the company liable for damage to growing crops, trees, fences, buildings, tile lines and drainage ditches, springs, water wells for homestead and livestock, and all surface property.

• And clarifying pipeline markers and signage.

Arnold strongly recommends getting an attorney that specializes in this area for the process. Call the local Farm Bureau for a list of good attorneys in Ohio.  Guernsey FB phone number is  740-425-3681

“The easement is one a landowner will live with for the rest of his life, as well as several generations,” Arnold said. “These agreements will go on for several generations and you want to work with good legal council and good accountants who are looking at this for you.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grazing Field Day in Muskingum County

Rotational grazing, soil health, and soil testing will be some of the topics at an evening field day at the Kevin and Lance Deal farm located at 6875 Chandlersville Rd, Chandlersville, OH  43727.  During the evening they will look at their rotational grazing stocker operation, discuss options for soil sampling and nutrient application and take a  look at soil health.
No cost or reservations required - rain or shine event.
Tuesday, June 18th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

With Algae Season Looming, Policymakers Unveil Plans To Ramp Up Efforts At Farm Fertilizer Oversight

Statehouse News   Directors of three state agencies told lawmakers Tuesday they back legislation to address farm runoff-fed algae blooms in Ohio lakes with an approach described as a balance between environmental concerns and agricultural industry profits.  The plan presented in concept form to the Senate Agriculture Committee - a bill introduction is pending this week - would on one hand expand government oversight and monitoring of farm fertilizers both natural and artificial, and on the other allow for private sector involvement in and the shielding of public records of farmers' "nutrient management plans."
Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), the committee chairman and bill sponsor along with Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), said Rep. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) would carry companion legislation in the House.

Chairman Hite said the bill would not be rushed. He plans to vet it during the summer and hold hearings in the fall, he said, adding that he had already received several "white papers" on the issue from a variety of interest groups.  "I know this bill is going to be a big issue, so we need to get it right," Mr. Hite said.

Relaying their support for the package to the committee on Tuesday were Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer, Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally. (Testimony)

Mr. Zehringer said the initiative stems from the report of an Agricultural Nutrients and Water Quality Working Group, which addressed the range of issues that have come to the forefront as the state has battled large algal blooms in Lake Erie and elsewhere, most notably at Grand Lake St. Marys.  While no new regulation will improve water quality overnight, he said, moving forward with the workgroup recommendations will help make a "measureable difference over the long run."  "In the short term, it is imperative that we act soon after what has been happening recently in Lake Erie," Mr. Zehringer said. "Over the last several years there has been a noticeable and significant increase in the severity and frequency of algal blooms which have occurred in Lake Erie, attracting unfortunate statewide and national attention."  "We must maintain the ecological integrity of Lake Erie and its economic importance without putting over-burdensome regulations on Ohio's farmers. It is our duty to balance the health of Lake Erie and the profitability of our state's agriculture."

The bill as currently drafted would:

  • Expand groups that develop Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) for farmers to include the private sector along with current government entities such as local soil and water districts and ODNR's Division of Soil and Water.
  • Broaden the definition of "nutrient" in state regulations to include commercially manufactured fertilizers, as ODNR's current oversight authority is largely limited to livestock manure.
  • Exempt farming NMPs submitted to the state from Ohio's Open Records Laws, which Mr. Zehringer said would mirror a federal exemption.
  • Restructure the Soil & Water Resource Commission by replacing two voting members from ODA and Ohio State University's College of Agriculture with farmer members.
  • Create a Fertilizer Applicator Licensing program with certification and continuing education requirements focused on best management practices.
  • Increase fertilizer data collection to include information on the amount and location of sales.

Speaking to the latter two provisions, Director Daniels said he wanted o underscore that Ohio farmers are not the only source of phosphorus entering Lake Erie.  "Nonetheless, we do know that the land application of commercial fertilizer and livestock manure is a contributing factor," he said.  "This is a complex problem and there are still many unanswered questions but I believe that Ohio farmers understand the problem and want to be a part of the solution. They are stewards of the land. They care about the environment. It is the foundation of their business and their survival."  Mr. Daniels said farmers "understand that it is time to rethink the way we have been used to doing things" to preserve water quality and the public health. "This bill is a tool the state will use to help them do that," he said.  Proposals for the bill have been circulating among stakeholders and have already prompted some concerns based on questions raised by some panelists. The directors' responses indicated some changes have already been made prior to the bill's official introduction.

For example, Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) said local soil and water districts had raised funding issues, particularly for distressed watersheds. Mr. Zehringer said the administration had backed away from some of its original proposals but wanted to focus resources to trouble spots such as Mercer County.

Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley Twp.) said local soil and water officials with amiable relationships with farmers had expressed concerns that additional oversight would negatively impact those relationships. The lawmaker also questioned whether there should be exemptions for smaller operations in the measure.

Director Zehringer said the only alternative to local oversight would be state purview. "We need to be firm on some of these issues," he said.

As for a small farm exemption, the director said he would recommend that all operations adopt NMPs regardless of size. "Everybody needs to be aware of where nutrients are going, whether big or small," he said.

Sen. Peterson, a farmer by trade, applauded the open records exemption in the bill, opining that NMPs could be considered "trade secrets" and their disclosure could impact a farmer's competitive advantage.

Responding to concerns that farmers in particular and various regions of the state are being cast in a bad light because of the algae problem, the directors said the bill would be part of a broader approach that would apply to all areas of the state.

"As the agency responsible for developing the state nutrient management plan to submit to the federal government, Ohio EPA realizes this is not just a non-point source issue," Director Nally said in testimony.
"This is an issue all of us must work on together from both the point source - businesses, homeowners and municipalities.

Honey substitutes might be behind bee-colony losses

Beekeepers’ use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as feed might be contributing to colony collapse by depriving the insects of compounds that strengthen their immune systems, according to a study released yesterday.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013


By Murray Fulton
Soil Conservationist USDA-NRCS

When you hear the word “buffer,” what do you think of? Maybe it evokes a safety net, a filter, or an area of shrubs and trees. In the landscape context, that’s pretty much what it is.

A “buffer,” when referred to by a conservationist or a farmer, is a small strip of land of trees, shrubs and other plants. This strip provides protection from such things as wind or pollutants entering waterways and plays a crucial role as a safety net for the environment. Conservation buffers trap sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, pathogens and heavy metals. To do this, buffers act like natural filters, removing nutrients or sediment that water runs off the field, keeping them from entering waterways.

If properly used, buffers remove more than 50 percent of nutrients and pesticides, 60 percent of certain pathogens and 75 percent of sediment. Not bad for a strip of trees and shrubs, right?  In addition to trapping pollutants, buffers slow water runoff and increase the amount of water that enters the ground, recharging our aquifers and protecting communities downstream from flooding.

During the winter buffers help trap snow and cut down on soil erosion in areas with strong winds. They also can protect livestock and wildlife from harsh weather, shield buildings from wind damage and reduce noise and odor coming from a farm.
Buffers provide numerous benefits for local wildlife. They are provide food and shelter for many wildlife species like quail, rabbit and other fun-to-watch species and can serve as connecting corridors that enable wildlife to move safely from one habitat area to another.

A conservation buffer’s trees and shrubs shade streams and cool the water, making the water a better home for plants and critters. Without trees and shade, streams become warmer, lowering populations of aquatic species. Also, buffer trees and shrubs stabilize streams by holding the earth in place with their roots. In addition to their vital services, buffers simply beautify the landscape, enhancing the natural aesthetics of a farm or ranch.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners create buffers on their land, along waterways and between fields. If used as part of a comprehensive conservation system, buffers make good use of areas that are not ideal for growing crops or other uses.

But buffers aren’t just for rural areas – they’re helpful in suburbs and cities alike. Buffers in these areas can yield the same benefits, especially along waterways and other ecologically sensitive areas.  Whether you live in the country or a big city, buffers will help improve the environment near you. Equip your property with buffers if you can, and encourage your local officials to do the same, protecting streams and other key landscapes.

Stop by your local NRCS office at 9711 East Pike, and learn more about how buffers can help your land and how to get started. The Guernsey/Noble District Conservationist is Kim Ray.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Illegal dumping reported in Belmont County

Ohio Department of Natural Resources said this week that Harch Environmental Resources has stopped operating in Ohio "after evidence was found that the company was illegally disposing of oil field waste in Ohio."  The company had contracted with Gulfport Energy Corporation to dispose of the oil field waste that was found to be illegally dumped in St. Clairsville following an anonymous tip, the agency said in a release, "indicating that Gulfport Energy Corporation failed to meet its responsibility to monitor oil field waste from inception to injection."  ODNR said it's consulting with the AG's office on any potential civil or criminal penalties both against the two firms.  "We will pursue and punish any company that chooses to violate or ignore ODNR's core mission to protect Ohioans and the environment," agency Director James Zehringer said. "Ohio's laws provide some of the most comprehensive safeguards to public health in the country, and when those regulations are broken, ODNR will take all necessary steps to hold violators accountable."

Smithsonian Plows Into Farming History

Photo by Abbie Fentress Swanson, Harvest Public Media

American agriculture has a proud history to share, but getting the attention of a nation that has mostly moved away from the farm has been difficult. There is hope for farm fans: the Smithsonian Institution is paying house calls to rural America.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Good Neighbors Deserve To Be Honored

Building good relationships between farmers and their community is a prime focus of the Ohio Livestock Council. As a result the organization is recognizing two kinds of rural residents with Neighbor of the Year awards. One will go to a farmer and one will go to a non-farmer. The winners will be individuals who have positively developed and enhanced relationships between neighbors in Ohio's farm communities.

"Being a good neighbor means being responsible and respectful of others," says David White, OLC executive director. "This means that farmers should be courteous of their neighbors and educate them on what they do and why they do it, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with livestock and farming. In addition, rural neighbors should keep their property neat and clean and be respectful of private property and the need for farmers to safeguard their business to help preserve the rural landscape that everyone enjoys."

The Ohio Livestock Coalition in partnership with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Credit Mid-America, is now accepting nominations for the awards. To qualify for the farmer award, the individual should:
•Be a livestock (dairy, beef, sheep, swine or poultry) farmer.
•Take opportunities to educate neighbors about the operation and process.
•Share with neighbors that farm animals require attention and care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of holidays and weekends.
•Follow OLC's good neighbor policy to: schedule/manage manure application to avoid potential conflicts with neighbors' outdoor activities, explain why farmers work late during planting and harvesting times, and be helpful (i.e. offer assistance with snow removal in the wintertime).

To qualify for the rural resident award, the individual should:
•Keep property neat, clean and trim.
•Keep pets and other domestic animals restricted to the property.
•Keep trash in a covered, enclosed receptacle.
•Not assume that farmland is open and available for an off-road vehicle or for walking.
•Talk to a farmer regarding any questions about farming or agricultural practice.

Nominations are due by Aug. 1 to the OLC office. Awards will be presented at the 16th OLC Annual Meeting and Industry Symposium on September 6. Award winners will receive a plaque and $250 will be donated to each recipient's favorite local charity of choice.

For more information or to obtain an application, contact Amy Hurst at (614) 246-8262 or For more information about Ohio's livestock farmers, and their role in providing Ohioans with safe, wholesome, affordable food, visit OLC's website at

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ODNR Forester Jeremy Scherf Honored by National Foresters Group

COLUMBUS, OH – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announces that Jeremy Scherf, service forester in eastern Ohio, was named the Northeastern Area Outstanding Cooperative Forest Management Forester for 2013 by the Northeastern Area Association of State Foresters (NAASF).

“We are pleased that Jeremy was recognized for his work in helping landowners understand and care for their renewable woodlands,” said Robert Boyles, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “Jeremy exemplifies the hard work our foresters do every day to provide professional advice, programs and outreach to family forest owners who own the majority of Ohio’s woodlands.”

Scherf was recognized at the NAASF annual meeting this spring in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He has been a service forester for the ODNR Division of Forestry assisting landowners in Jefferson, Harrison, Guernsey, Belmont and Monroe counties in eastern Ohio for the past 12 years.

Scherf develops stewardship plans for sustainable woodlands, certifies properties for the American Tree Farm System, promotes the ‘Call Before You Cut’ program and administers cost-share incentive programs for woodland improvement. He is a founding member of the Barnesville Area Reforestation Kommittee (BARK), and he is part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, which is a cooperative effort to plant hardwood trees on reclaimed coal-mined lands.

He is a graduate of The Ohio State University School of Natural Resources. Scherf is active in the East Central Ohio Forestry Association and is co-director of the annual Ohio Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, which attracts 100 high school students for a week-long intensive learning experience. He is a member of the Ohio Society of American Foresters (OSAF) and through continuing education maintains his Certified Forester status in this professional organization. Scherf was recognized as the OSAF Outstanding Member in 2005 and by the Ohio Forestry Association as Outstanding Individual in Government Service in 2006.

The NAASF is part of the National Association of State Foresters. The nonprofit organization fosters stewardship of state and private forest resources, collaborates with federal land management agencies, conducts educational programming and provides awareness of current forestry issues.

The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, forest health and tree care, visit

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Radioactive Drilling Waste Deal Could Be Ready For Budget Amendment

The oil and gas industry is working with the Kasich administration to hammer out differences over a contentious proposal to regulate radioactive drilling waste, but environmentalists fear their concerns will be left out of the mix.  The House's version of the biennial budget stripped the administration's plan to require horizontal well operators to test drilling waste for radioactivity and regulate how it could be handled and disposed. Both the industry and environmentalists opposed the measure, albeit for very different reasons.
Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Tom Stewart said he was optimistic that a compromise between the industry and the Kasich administration would be ready for inclusion in the budget before lawmakers send the final version to the governor later this month.  Mr. Stewart said the industry doesn't object to the broader proposal to track technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) coming out of oil and gas well operations.

The administration's original proposal would have given the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health jurisdiction over TENORM, which sometimes occurs as fracking fluid comes into repeated contact with naturally occurring radioactive material deep underground.  Although the industry has repeatedly sparred with the administration over the governor's plan to increase the oil and gas severance tax, negotiations on radioactive drilling waste have proceeded amiably, Mr. Stewart said. "We appreciate the willingness of the administration to work with us to resolve those matters."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bill Gates finds fertilizer fascinating

Fertilizer. It’s not the most scintillating of conversation starters, not something one would bring up to impress a young lady on a first date, perhaps. It’s not the first thing one would think of when sitting down to a fancy meal in one of Dallas’ finest restaurants. And one would be foolish to believe fertilizer would concern a mother shopping for blue jeans or tee-shirts for her children.
But perhaps it should be. Bill Gates believes so.
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Monday, June 3, 2013

The Emerald Ash Borer

The environmental, social, and economic impact this pest is having on Ohio’s rural and urban forests is staggering.

The Division of Forestry is taking proactive steps on state forests, as well as encouraging municipalities and woodland owners to do likewise. EAB larvae feed on the living portion of the tree, directly beneath the bark. This eating habit restricts the tree’s ability to move essential water and nutrients throughout the plant. In three to five years, even the healthiest tree is unable to survive an attack.

This pest can be difficult to identify because the symptoms that infested ash trees exhibit are much like the symptoms of our native ash borers. The main symptoms of an EAB infested tree are branch dieback, sprouting around the base of the tree, and unusual woodpecker activity.

Signs of an EAB infestation are very unique. These include 1/8-inch, D-shaped exit holes, and if the bark is peeled back, a serpentine pattern of tunnels packed with sawdust.

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) is an ash tree-killing insect from Asia that was unintentionally introduced to southeastern Michigan several years ago. In February of 2003, it was first found feeding on ash trees in northwest Ohio.

This Asian pest is part of a group of insects known as metallic wood-boring beetles. EAB affects all species of native ash found in Ohio. Because North American ash trees did not coexist in association with this pest, they have little or no resistance to its attack.

Ohio’s Ash Population
When Emerald Ash Borer was first discovered in Ohio (2003), the only available hard data for the number of ash trees came from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) Program. This was data last released in 1991.

At that time, the Forest Service listed Ohio as having 3.8 billion white ash trees. When, adding the relative percentage of green, blue, and pumpkin ash in our state, that led to a number of just greater than 5 billion total ash trees in Ohio. These numbers represent all sizes of trees, including seedlings.

The Forest Service has released its latest FIA data for our state and they are now using a new data collection process that does not count all trees. The new system counts only trees that are at least one inch in diameter. This new data indicates a total of more than 254 million ash trees (all species) one inch in diameter and greater*.  The new Forest Service counting method accounts only for the economically significant number of trees.

What do I need to know about firewood?
Emerald Ash Borer can become established when infested firewood is transported to new areas. Help stop the movement of exotic pests. DO NOT MOVE FIREWOOD.