Ag groups tend to back preservation


COLUMBUS — While some questions remain about the seven-bill farmland preservation package to be introduced by state Reps. Gene Krebs and Sean Logan, Ohio agriculture organizations are generally supportive.

Charlie Nash, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, would like to see a total exemption of the state estate tax. “I think that would be a very good idea, putting in an incentive to keep land in agriculture,” Nash said.

Nash said OFU has supported efforts to link rebuilding urban centers rather than removing good agriculture land from production for development. But Nash emphasized OFU’s policy supporting farmland preservation that makes production agriculture viable for family farmers but does not tie farmers’ hands during hard times.

“During the farm crisis of the 1980s, many farmers remained in business because they sold a portion of their farmland, which gave them enough capital to tide them over until the farm economy recovered,” Nash said.

OFU does not favor new township and county zoning restrictions on farmland.

“I want to see how our ag district laws compare to Iowa’s,” said Kit Fogle, OFU state legislative director, in regard to an Iowa Supreme Court decision knocking down ag districts. “About 22 percent of agricultural land in Ohio is signed up for ag districts. We wouldn’t want to see that protection removed, though.”

Nash said OFU leadership will discuss changes such as increasing recoupment of CAUV from three to six years, and increasing CAUV acreage eligibility from 10 to 20 acres, with the membership.

Larry Gearhardt, legislative counsel for Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said OFB basically supports the bills. “We also have to be cautious about protecting private property rights; it’s very important to have this done on a local, voluntary basis, and give incentives to keep land in agriculture as opposed to forcing more regulations,” Gearhardt said.

OFB is interested primarily in CAUV and ag districts. Farm Bureau had some input on the number of acres for CAUV eligibility, and they split the difference between the 40 acres preferred in western Ohio, and the 10 acres preferred by more developed areas. Property will also still be able to qualify if it shows $2,500 in agriculture income.

Farm Bureau also supports comprehensive planning on a countywide basis. “Land that is prime for agriculture, save for agriculture; ground that is not so good for agriculture, head your development in that direction,” Gearhardt said.

Another important consideration to OFB is subdivision regulations and curtailing “the five-acre lot.”

“We think you should lump houses together in one area rather than spread over the countryside,” he said. Heavier traffic from bunches of rural houses makes it difficult to move equipment, he said.

Gearhardt agreed with the emphasis on zoning in the wake of the Iowa decision. “If we can’t protect ourselves from nuisance lawsuits, then we need to keep people out of the country to avoid those conflicts,” he said.

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