REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio –Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Office of Farmland Preservation will purchase easement rights on nearly 3,200 acres of farmland from 18 farms in the seventh and final funding round of the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.
Although the combined easement values exceed $8.6 million, a total of $3.1 million from the Clean Ohio Fund will secure these easements.
“Ohio’s fertile soils have always been essential to feeding a growing population, and have also been called upon to meet a booming demand for renewable energy,” Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs said.
“Over the last 50 years, we have lost valuable farmland, equivalent in size to nearly 23 Ohio counties. The Clean Ohio Program has provided the means to preserve more than 26,000 acres of valued farmland, which in turn has preserved jobs and has sustained the state’s number one industry — agriculture.”
What’s an easement?
An agricultural easement is an agreement between the landowner, the state, and the local community to keep a piece of property in agricultural production forever.
Landowners may undertake any agricultural activity permitted under Ohio law, and can sell their farm or pass it along as a gift to others.
The restriction prohibiting non-farm development is attached to the land and future owners cannot convert the land to non-farm uses.
This year, the Ohio Farmland Preservation Advisory Board reviewed 198 applications received from 30 counties, totaling nearly 30,000 acres of farmland, competing for the limited Clean Ohio funds.
Applicants had the opportunity to earn up to 150 points based on a two-tiered scoring system.
One section of the application focused on development pressure, soils, proximity to other agricultural land, use of best management practices, and local comprehensive land-use plans.
The second section included narrative questions regarding the farm and its unique appeal to AEPP.
Since the AEPP’s inception in 2002, the department’s Office of Farmland Preservation has received more than 1,800 Clean Ohio AEPP applications.
Due to limited funding, the department has preserved only 135 of those farms, totaling 26,814.55 acres.
Following this year’s round of funding, the $25 million allocation from the Clean Ohio Fund will be depleted.
Gov. Strickland’s and the General Assembly’s Bipartisan Economic Stimulus Package, a $1.57 billion investment in Ohio’s economy and infrastructure that will create tens of thousands of new jobs, includes a $400-million bond renewal for the Clean Ohio Fund.
If passed, this money will not only help preserve farmland but will also preserve greenspace, develop recreational trails, and clean up brownfield sites.
For more information about farmland preservation, visit www.ohioagriculture.gov/farmland.