SALEM, Ohio — Ohio’s farmland preservation goals have been strengthened, thanks to recent changes and clarifications to the law that lays out the Agricultural Security Area program.
House Bill 289, sponsored by Rep. Tony Core of Rushsylvania, was signed by Gov. Ted Strickland April 18.
Agricultural Security Areas, or ASAs, allow one or more farmers to band together to come up with 500 contiguous acres of farmland to enroll in the program.
Enrolling the large tract of land protects it, at least for 10 years, from being used for anything except agriculture.
Landowners work with township trustees and county commissioners to enroll the property for a minimum 10-year period. The program is administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
During that time, the landowner may not “initiate, approve or finance any new development for nonagricultural purposes” on the land, according to the law.
At the end of the 10-year period, landowners can either pull their property from the program or re-enroll.
The new legislation offered several updates to the law, including additions to the definition of what’s considered ‘new development.’
Now allowed under the law are additions like wind energy production facilities; easements for utility lines; grants of new mineral leases; and the drilling or operation of any oil or gas well on the land.
The changes also allow additional contiguous land to be enrolled in an existing ag security area during the 10-year period, or for land to be transferred to another person while an ag security area is in effect.
Enrolling property in an ag security area has tax benefits, too. The newest changes refine the law’s wording to allow tax exemptions for qualifying agricultural real property — “a building, structure, improvement or fixture that is used exclusively for agricultural purposes” that is located on land enrolled in an ag security area and has a “true value in money of $25,000 or more.”
“There really are no major changes to the law,” said department of agriculture spokesperson Cindy Brown.
“This just provided clear, more simplified terms of the actual law,” she said.
Ohio’s Agricultural Security Area program was signed into law in February 2005. Since then, ag security areas have been formed in nine counties to protect more than 15,000 acres.