Salem couple donates ag easement

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio – Roy and Jodi McCullough of Salem, Ohio, are the first landowners in northeast Ohio to donate an agricultural easement to the Ohio Department of Agriculture – preserving their farm for agriculture forever.

The 50-acre Mahoning County farm, approximately half of which is prime agricultural soils, is in grain production and managed woodlands.

Getting started.

The McCulloughs, both of whom are high school science teachers, had been concerned about the conversion of surrounding farmland into residential development for some time. With the help of the Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District they were able to quickly complete the first phase of the charitable donation by Dec. 31, in time for a significant federal income tax credit.

“We love this farm and the rural character of the area,” said Jodi McCullough, “We never want to see this land go out of agriculture. When I learned that ODA would work with us to grant and to monitor a perpetual easement we went full steam ahead with the process.”

Losing ground.

Fred Dailey, Ohio agriculture director, noted that since 1950 Mahoning County has lost 57 percent of its total land in farms and over 90 percent of its permanent pasture.

“Still, with the 650 farms that remain, agricultural producers in Mahoning County earned over $35 million in farm gate receipts last year,” Dailey said. “That is a significant sum and it tells me that the agricultural community there has staying power. We need to do what we can to permanently protect that land base and I commend the McCulloughs for their initiative.”

Restricting development.

An agricultural easement is a voluntary legal agreement restricting non-agricultural development on farmland, with the land remaining on the tax rolls and under private ownership and management. Landowners may undertake any agricultural activity permitted under Ohio law, and they can sell their farm or pass it along as a gift to others.

The restriction prohibiting non-farm development, however, travels with the land and the new owner would never be able to develop the land for non-farm uses. In the past 18 months, five easements preserving over 600 acres have been donated to the state, with more underway.

An information packet on ODA’s agricultural easement donation program is available by calling 614-728-6211.

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