September Celebrates Whole Grains

September 1, 2011

Ohioans are reminded of the positive influence of the state’s grain industry in September as the month is designated as “Whole Grains Month.”

The economical impact of grains production, particularly wheat production, in Ohio is significant — $253 million is generated from this sector each year.

And though everyone is familiar with the nutritional advantages of whole grains, no one really stops to think about the businesses responsible for producing the staple grains that end up in our food.

Ohio Grains Production Facts

  • No. 1 producer of Soft Red Winter Wheat in the U.S.
  • Produced more than 46 million bushels in 2010
  • Home to 12 flour mills
  • Home to 358 grain elevators
  • Wheat yields average 61 bushels per acre

Though much of the Midwest has experienced extreme weather conditions to threaten the viability of its grains production, we’re fortunate in Ohio.

Nine hundred thousand wheat acres were planted the previous fall, an increase from 2010 and 52 million bushels harvested, which is an increase from 46 million bushels in 2010. The health of our wheat crop depended on its location in the state, as the wet spring presented a challenge and added additional disease pressures.
 
Overall, the wheat crop probably turned out better than expected given the difficulties of our historic spring.

So… In recognition of Whole-Grains Month, just why are whole grains so healthy?

Whole-wheat flour is rich in B-vitamins, vitamin E and protein and contains more trace minerals and dietary fiber than white flour. The fiber, like the fiber found in whole-wheat flour, is necessary for the digestive tract to function well.

Whole-wheat bread’s increased nutritional value is related to the whole grain. The whole-grain kernel consists of three parts. The outer layer of the grain is the bran, which has a lot of fiber and protein. Inside the bran is the germ, which is loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. The endosperm is the starchy area within the whole grain.

For whole-grains recipes ideas for you and your family to try, visit http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org

Also recognizing the nutritional advantages of whole grains, the recently implemented Ohio Senate Bill 210, known as the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act, mandates new nutritional guidelines for school lunches that incorporates more whole-grains foods in cafeterias.

As always, we welcome any questions or comments about or related to our work to advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

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Farm Bill Efforts Battle On

August 5, 2011

As part of our ongoing efforts to impact the development of the 2012 Farm Bill, OCWGA was in Washington, D.C.

During our frequent visits to the capital, we ensure that we meet with the policymakers and Hill staff who are integral to the process of helping to shape and formulate the Farm Bill. We purposefully met with every office in our congressional delegation. Specifically, we had the opportunity to engage in one-one discussions with:

  • Speaker John Boehner
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, Senate Ag Committee member
  • Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, House Ag Committee member and chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture)
  • Congressman Bob Gibbs, House Ag Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment

Two issues that we’ve deemed most significant to our state’s grain industry regarding the Farm Bill are ensuring a safety net for Ohio’s farmers and reiterating the value of the ethanol industry to our national economy, farms and rural communities. Two examples of our talking points during our conversations included:

  • We support transitioning from direct payments to strengthen safety-net programs such as ACRE and crop insurance; transferring the responsibility to the grower to opt into the program to actively manage risk
  • The ethanol industry led the resurgence of Ohio’s No. 1 industry—agriculture—creating jobs and strengthening rural America with ongoing reinvestment

As always, we welcome any questions or comments about or related to our work to advance the Ohio grain industry, especially now as we address the pending Farm Bill. If you’re interested in assisting us with our efforts to advocate our recommendations, or if you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Environmental Oversight Affects Farmers

July 1, 2011

As a representative of Ohio’s farming community, OCWGA has great respect for the land and understands its responsibility to help protect it. Our farmers engage in daily practices from no-till farming, to crop rotation and responsible land use, to safeguard air quality, soil loss, energy use, climate impact, biodiversity and water use and quality.

However, a balance is sought between legitimate environmental concerns and the economic realities of farming. OCWGA supports programs that ensure environmental permanence with the need to maintain a long-term, dependable food supply and the necessity for long-term profitability in farming.

The EPA requires adherence to strict plans and procedures, recordkeeping and reporting requirements for a variety of its programs, with the implementation of one-size-fits-all numeric criteria. The federal government threatens states with stringent accountability measures (“backstops”) if these environmental goals are not met.

State and local jurisdictions have argued that, oftentimes EPA mandates are far too costly, especially considering current economic and budgetary conditions. Others believe that the science behind EPA’s pollution estimates is also flawed, that the agency has overreached its authority and that the regulatory process lacks transparency.

Many water-quality initiatives are currently being addressed that re-examine former legislation and/or introduce new amendments:

  • In 2009, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an EPA rulemaking that specifically exempted aquatic pesticides from Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements. The EPA and state regulatory agencies are now forced to develop a NPDES permitting system for pesticide applications.
  • In December 2010, the EPA finalized the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still safely meet water quality standards. More than 40,000 TMDLs have been developed throughout the country since the act was first adopted that limit nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads for six states (MD, VA, PA, WV, DE, NY) and the District of Columbia.
  • In the Midwest, activists groups have recently threatened to sue EPA to force the agency to establish numeric nutrient criteria for every state in the Mississippi River Basin to address nutrient loading and ultimately hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recently, however, water-quality legislation made the business of farming more feasible for the agricultural industry. H.R. 872 — the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act — amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act, to protect pesticide applicators, their customers and state and local government from costs associated with duplicating already existing federal pesticide regulations.

In the House, Ohio’s Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) generated and supported H.R. 872 to lessen regulatory burdens. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voted for this legislation on Tuesday in the agriculture committee of the U.S. Senate.

Ohio’s corn and wheat growers understand the value of sustainable agriculture, but it’s an ever-present challenge to demonstrate our understanding and compassion for the environment while simultaneously ensuring a safe, affordable, abundant food supply.

At OCWGA, we believe and continue to advocate for the use of advanced seed varieties, modern technology and conservation farming methods to safeguard our environment for years to come.  As always, we welcome any questions or comments about or related to our work to advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining in OCWGA, please contact us.

Rainfall mandates planting adjustments

May 2, 2011

Rainfall has prevented the preferred planting schedule for our state corn farmers. Persistent rain in April nearly surpassed 1998’s state record of 7.29 inches, prohibiting Ohio growers from entering the fields.

The optimum planting date range for corn in Ohio is April 20 until May 10. Farmers can and will plant corn well into May, but later planting does impact yield. If the intended corn acres do not materialize because of the weather, farmers tend to switch corn acres to soybean acres. It is still too early to tell how many acres this will affect.

To date, 1 percent of Ohio’s corn crop is planted, which is 38 percent less than the past year and 13 percent less than the five-year average. Typically, 15 percent of the corn crop is in the ground about this time of the year.

Corn consumption is projected to be near 13.25 billion bushels during the 2011-2012 marketing year. The USDA and others are predicting a national yield of 162 bushels per acre on a projected 92.2 million acres with 87 million acres being harvested for grain. The commitment is still there from the nation’s corn farmers to provide for all end users of corn.

Corn farmers will need to re-strategize their planting plans because of the weather delay. 
Some of the strategies may include:

  • Considering a shorter-season hybrid seed
  • Foregoing tilling or practice decrease tillage
  • Using an increased seed rate
  • Using nitrogen later or considering nitrogen alternatives

How are our Ohio wheat farmers affected by the wetness? The conditions for a successful wheat harvest won’t be known until harvest time—late June and July, but Ohio wheat farmers are scouting their fields to assess damage. Well-drained fields are expected to cope nicely, especially if June is dry. Ohio’s wheat crop came through the winter in better shape than other states. USDA rates more than 70 percent of Ohio’s wheat in fair to good condition.

Some good news — Winter wheat seedings were reported to be 3.7 million greater than seedings in the fall of 2009.

It’s important to address consumer fears about the rhetoric of potential food shortages and food-cost increases because of yield loss from bad weather. Ohio grain farmers watched the grain markets closely and modified their corn and wheat planting plans to ensure enough corn and wheat for all markets—food, feed, fuel and fiber.

As always, we welcome any questions or comments about or related to our work to advocate on behalf of Ohio’s grain industry. If you’re interested in joining in OCWGA, please contact us.

Farm Bill Reform Starts Now

April 12, 2011

Congressional hearings about the next Farm Bill are already underway, and Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) is actively advocating for reform with target state and federal legislators.

The newly inaugurated 112th Congress will map the course of agricultural policy in the coming years.

As the administration makes decisions about the success of America’s corn and wheat markets, OCWGA supports regulations that advance each commodity’s financial potential, with respect to the environment and sustainable farming methods.

Recognizing the vital role of the American farmer, the federal government has historically provided a safety net to consumers to preserve food security and to growers to protect against market volatility and other operational challenges.

OCWGA recently developed guiding principles for Farm-Bill policy development:

To balance the budget, we believe that the U.S. government should reduce spending to result in a reduction of the federal debt.

  • We believe that inefficient spending should be eliminated in all sectors of the U.S. economy.

We believe that the Farm Bill should provide an affordable revenue-based safety net for producers that triggers only when a revenue loss occurs and does not guarantee a profit.

We believe that the Farm Bill should allow for enhanced market opportunities.

We believe that a safety net is defined as risk-management tools available to producers that have the ability to protect against revenue losses because of circumstances beyond their control.

We believe that a transitioning of direct payments into programs that allow producers the ability to manage risk while assuring food security must be investigated.

Federal policies should ensure:

  • Access to world markets
  • Access to capital
  • Access to advances of technology
  • Risk management

We support a program that:

  • Allows farmers to make business and planting decisions based on market forces
  • Allows market forces to determine supply rather than government decision making
  • Strengthens and simplifies Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, a revenue-based program

We welcome any questions or comments about our suggested policies for the future Farm Bill. If you’re interested in participating in OCWGA’s Farm-Bill efforts, please contact us.

Leadership Academy Ignites “Agvocates”

January 28, 2011

Who better to tell the notable stories of the Ohio corn and wheat industries than its farmers?

Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) recently hosted the second meeting of our first annual Ohio Grains Leadership Academy (OGLA) – A two-part, multi-day program that immerses select members of OCWGA in education sessions to help them learn how to best communicate industry messages to the public and to the media.

The goal of the program is to mentor and develop the voices of our grain growers to represent and promote Ohio’s No. 1 industry – agriculture.

The distance between the farmer and consumer continues to expand each year, as another generation of people enters the world lacking farming knowledge and understanding. It’s becoming increasingly important to help bridge the disconnect between farm-industry members and all others.

Our hope is to foster future board or committee members, but most importantly, mold “Agvocates” to be positive influences and representatives within their communities and throughout the state. If we don’t speak up about the significance and value of the family farm, who will?

This session’s primary focus was a lesson about how to best communicate with consumers and media to deliver messaging about state and federal issues that impact Ohio’s corn and wheat industries.

The session also gave attendees the opportunity to meet their state representatives, hear comments from our Ohio Agricultural Director Jim Zehringer, visit the Ohio Statehouse and Ohio Supreme Court and listen to various state regulators.

The Leadership Academy will continue annually, as we’ll always need leaders ready to be engaged in the process to help with issues that affect the viability and sustainability of the farm.

OGLA attendants left the program better educated and re-energized to spread positive messages about current and pending issues that affect their and their fellow farmers’ profitability.

If you’re interested in becoming involved with OCWGA, please contact us. We’d love your contribution and support.

We look forward to Advancing Ohio Grains.

Better Together

December 22, 2010

Happy New Year!

2011 is full of potential for the corn and wheat industries, especially in Ohio.

I’m proud to introduce the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) – a unification of the former Ohio Corn Growers and Ohio Wheat Growers associations.

OCWGA serves as a delegate for state and federal issues that impact the corn and wheat industries.

Working with our national counterparts, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers, we partner in research, market development, education and promotion initiatives that raise awareness about and create new and expanded markets for Ohio corn and wheat.

And, the 2011 grains market promises to be very active. We’ll experience increased attention on corn ethanol with the short-term renewal of VEETC and the EPA’s partial waiver of E15 blends at fuel stations nationwide. Due diligence on the next Farm Bill to meet the needs of farmers and consumers and to decrease governmental spending is a top priority. The notable increase in planted wheat acreage as farmers continue to meet global demand, as well as advances in wheat biotechnology, are also contributing factors to heightened public and political awareness of the grains industry this year.

I’m eager to launch OCWGA, and I look forward to interacting with our members, legislators and the media as we advocate on behalf of governmental issues that economically impact Ohio and its farmers.

Please visit our website often to access industry news and to learn about current issues and events that impact our farming community.

We look forward to Advancing Ohio Grains.