Farms vie for last round of Ohio easement purchase program dollars

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REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Ohio farm families and local communities recently submitted applications to Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs requesting funds to help keep their land forever in agricultural use.
The department has received applications from 198 families for the seventh and final round of funding from the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.

What it is

An agricultural easement is a voluntary, legal agreement in which a landowner agrees to use the land only for agricultural purposes and permanently relinquishes the right to develop the land for nonagricultural activities.

The landowner retains ownership and management of the land with a governmental entity or nonprofit organization “holding” the easement, which grants them the legal right to enforce the agreement. The agricultural easement is a permanent and legally binding restriction upon the land, which does not affect the rights to sell or pass along the land.

The applications are currently undergoing the first of a two-step scoring process.

Steps

The first step uses a formula that takes into account soil quality; proximity to other protected areas; proximity to intermediate development pressure; the use of best management practices; and local support and planning for agriculture.

The second step includes a review by the Ohio Agriculture Director’s 12-member Farmland Preservation Advisory Board. The advisory board evaluates a set of questions designed to provide further insight into the farm’s operations, the farm’s estate, business and conservation plans, local agricultural infrastructure and local farmland protection efforts.

Scores from both rounds are combined, and the advisory board presents its recommendations to Boggs.

Recipients are expected to be announced in mid-July, with more than $3.1 million in Clean Ohio funds to be distributed.

Since the Agricultural Easement Purchase Program’s inception in 2002, the department’s Farmland Preservation office has received more than 1,800 applications.

Following this year’s round of funding, the $25 million allocation from the Clean Ohio Fund will be depleted.

Funding

Due to limited funding, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has been able to preserve only 117 of those farms, totaling 23,615 acres.

Following this year’s round of funding, the $25 million allocation from the Clean Ohio Fund will be depleted. Gov. Strickland’s Building Ohio Jobs proposal 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 on Clean Ohio or the Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, visit www.ohioagriculture.gov/farmland or contact the Office of Farmland Preservation at 614-728-6210.

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