COLUMBUS — With former Gov. Nancy Hollister signing Senate Bill 223, which is the authorizing legislation for Purchase of Development Rights programs, Ohio has taken another step toward preservation of its dwindling farmland base. But much more remains to be done.
Karl Gebhardt, executive director of the Office of Farmland Preservation in the Ohio Department of Agriculture, discussed upcoming initiatives in the farmland preservation front at the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association Convention in Columbus Jan. 8-9.
“Seven different bills have now been drafted and will be introduced in this legislature,” explained Gebhardt. “They deal with separate issues, but they are all good issues that need to be dealt with.”
An immediate task is to get rules in place to implement SB 223 when funds become available, he said. It will also be vital to encourage donations of easements to get tax benefits and similar inducements to make farmland preservation easements easier to develop.
Farmland preservation advocates are looking to new Ohio Gov. Robert Taft for leadership, and Gebhardt noted Taft made mention in his campaign of supporting a statewide bond issue to fund a farmland preservation campaign.
Although the more comprehensive Krebs-Logan bill did not make it to the floor of the Ohio House for consideration, many elements of the legislation are contained in the seven bills that are likely to be introduced. Gebhardt said one tax benefit to farm land, Current Agricultural Use Valuation, should be discussed
“We need to make sure land that receives CAUV benefits really is in agricultural use,” he said. “We need to make sure the person getting the benefit is involved in agriculture.”
Education on farmland preservation issues beyond the farm community is important, he noted. An educational goal of his office is to help local groups establish land trusts to keep farmland in agriculture.
A premium must be placed on getting farmers to work with counties to develop a farmland preservation strategy, on a farm-by-farm basis. Every farm is different and requires a different approach, he said.
“Educational programs should be established as well for attorneys and estate planners to allow easier passage of farms,” he said.
Gebhardt would also like to establish a bureau of volunteer speakers at the local level to go and talk to nonagricultural groups about farmland preservation issues.