May 14, 2013

In the District

Last week I traveled to our Nation’sCapital with the American Sheep Industry on the Spring Legislative trip. I left Columbus with Roger High, the Executive Director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement and sightseer extraordinaire. We also met up with Susan Schultz, an Ohio Sheep producer who serves as a District representative on the American Sheep Industry Board.

Roger High is making sure we know
we are picking the right Metro line!
When Roger and I flew in to D.C., we bought our metro pass and set out on a day full of site seeing. We walked at least 10 miles and at the end of the day my feet were a disaster. I wore good shoes for the trek, but those shoes simply were not meant to keep up with Roger High and his tour of the District. I have run a marathon and my feet looked nothing like they did after a day hitting the pavement with Roger.

The rest of the week was spent with Sheep producers from across the country and our legislators on the Hill. Meeting with the staffers, Congressmen and Senators was very exciting. We talked about Immigration, the farm bill, scrapie program and Roger High's favorite — Wildlife services! We had over 13 appointments to talk about what we do here in Ohio and how important their support is of Ohio’s #1 industry, agriculture.

I learned so much on this trip, but it was not on the Hill that I gained so much insight on our sheep industry. After our hectic days, we met up with sheep producers from across the country and talked sheep shop. I made new friends from Maine to Oregon and many western states in between.  Ohio is the largest sheep state east of the Mississippi River but we are a small sheep state compared to the states out West. They run multiple bands of sheep across their land and BLM ground (bureau of land management). A band consists of around 1,000 sheep. Western  practices are so different from ours and what real sheep production is all about.  Without these families, our sheep industry would cease to exist. 
Myself, Roger High, Bob Gibbs and Susan Schultz in
Rep. Gibbs office.

We do not deal too much in Ohio with immigration in the sheep business, but out west their livelihood depends on immigrants (mainly from Peru) as herders or real life shepherds living in the mountains protecting and caring for the sheep. Wildlife Services is also another crucial component. In Ohio, we have coyotes which need to be controlled and we need the help of WLS to help us keep our loses minimal. Out west, WLF conducts Spring Cleans where they fly overhead in an airplane to eliminate the coyotes. Not only do the coyotes kill the ewes but they kill off the lambs and in the thousands of head (1 sheep is a head) in one year's time. These western farmers and ranchers have to factor in loss to predation in their production practices which must to be a horrible feeling but reality. In Ohio the loss of one animal is devastating, but to the guys out west that would be a blessing. 

Due to legislation like the farm bill, we are able to fund research centers to work on eliminating sheep diseases such as scrapie. While this disease is near eradication, we as producers want to see this disease eliminated for the betterment of our industry. USDA researchers and veterinarians are working diligently to put programs in place to track and eliminate this from the United States. In Ohio, we are very fortunate to have one of the best plans of action in place to stop the spread of scrapie.
Under Secretary Avalos and Elvis his right hand man were kind
enough to allow us a photo op.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was attending a lamb BBQ with many people in the sheep industry and our legislators. This was held at a boat club on the Potomac River. I had the opportunity to talk with Edward Avalos, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA, and his head staff member Elvis about what involvement I have to agriculture. I also met Dr. John Clifford, Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He has family ties to Ohio just a few miles from where I live.
 I was very impressed with their actual interest in what we as farmers and people in agriculture are encountering on a daily basis. While I do not agree with some things that go on in Washington, I was reminded how important it is for us to communicate and voice our concerns about important issues. In each appointment, it was reinforced how much an e-mail or letter means to your Congressman or Senator. Let them know your thoughts and concerns they are to represent we the people and if we stand idle they may make a decision based on lack of information.

We were able to leave a pair of woolsocks made with wool from U.S. sheep producers and made in the USA with each of our legislative visits. Of course, we got this approved by the Ethics committee and apparently wool socks are allowed.  At the Lamb BBQ they had some extra socks so Roger Susan and I were more than excited to bring back to Ohio some comfy wool socks. I was about to break out the black wool socks and wear them on the Hill with my heels due to my aching blistered feet. Next time, I will be prepared. 
Also met with the Senate Ag committee staff. If you notice a familiar Ohio
face you would be correct. Center right is Joe Schultz economist for the Ag Committee.



May 10, 2013

Corn and Beans

JD tractor and a Kinze 32 row planter
I have a list of things that I want to do each year. If you saw my list you would probably think I was a bit strange. A few of the things I want to do this year revolve around row crop farming:
1. Learn to drive a Semi (I hope to do this in the fall)

2. Run the Turbo till tillage implement (completed this spring)

3. Plant Corn and Soybeans (I planted beans late last month)

Close up of the soybean planter, this can also be adjusted for corn as well.
I have been in many tractors, but there is something about planting and harvesting a crop that is really fascinating. I could do it full time if I could find a sucker to let me drive their tractors, but I think they would have to be pretty desperate.  Working the soil, treating the weeds and planting the crop seems pretty simple, but there is an art to driving equipment with all this great technology.

This hopper wagon is full of Becks Liberty Link  beans to refill planter.
Driving a tractor is one thing, but when you add in auto steer, irregular field shapes, night tilling, waterways and lining up your rows perfectly, there are a lot of things to remember. When you see those guys out in the field rolling right along, let me tell you, it is harder than it looks. They really know what they are doing and I am pretty sure I am not going to get hired to work ground or plant beans any time soon. It would take me 20 times longer to do the job and probably not to their perfection either. I’d better stick with occasionally making a meal for the local farmers so they will let me drive the tractor every once in a while. I think I have that pretty down pat.

Planting corn, view from the tractor cab. Big tank holds Nitrogen
that is released when seed is planted.
Even though we do not plant corn or soybeans on our small farm, our animals consume a lot of corn and beans. Animal production in Ohio has a direct link to what row crop farmers are doing. The production of their product affects the price and supply of what I feed to my animals.

Just like with anything you do in life, practice makes perfect when planting soybeans. I think that farmers are always learning how to do their jobs better and more efficiently, but I also think farmers are born with the drive, passion and know-how to do what they do. Farmers work round the clock to get the work done, some working 20-hour days to get ahead of the weather. I know when I spend a little time talking with my crop farmer friends I am extremely grateful that they do what they do! Please remember to be careful when you see equipment on the roads and instead of passing them in a hurry give them a beep and a friendly wave to show them how much you appreciate what they are doing.