First round of Clean Ohio easement funds depleted; nine more farms saved


COLUMBUS – Since February, Ohio has spent nearly $8 million to preserve the state’s agricultural heritage and protect farms from development.

The latest payout came in late July, when the final dollars of the Clean Ohio Fund’s first round were allocated to preserve 1,056 acres of prime farmland.

The final $1.76 million are the last of Clean Ohio moneys and a grant from the Federal Farmland Protection Program to preserve farmland.

Farmland is one of Ohio’s greatest natural resources, providing a source of jobs, income and pride for 77,000 Ohio farm families, according to Gov. Bob Taft.

“I am pleased that we have preserved more than 4,500 acres, and I am looking forward to preserving thousands more in the next three years of this program.”

Nine farms. The nine farms approved for funding are:

* Marian Flinner, Big Prairie, Holmes County, 157 acres at a total of $297,137.

* Lon and Michelle Chambers, Brookville, Montgomery County, 101 acres at a total of $182,417.

* Merrill and Mary Keplinger, Springfield, Clark County, 39 acres at a total of $115,680.

* Eleanor Bull, Xenia, Greene County, 143 acres at a total of $258,930.

* Barto Farms, Inc., Green Springs, Seneca County, 95 acres at a total of $114,463.

* Vernon and Jane Koselke, Tiffin, Seneca County, 157 acres at a total of $161,673.

* Gerald Fry and Doris Kroeger, Tiffin, Seneca County, 70 acres at a total of $94,394.

* Jeffrey and Karen Pansing, Brookville, Montgomery County, 90 acres at a total of $162,000.

* Neil Babb, London, Madison County, 200 acres at a total of $375,281.

Last of the first. The farms are the last nine of 24 farms to be approved for first round funding from the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.

In all, 4,534 acres of farmland across the state have been preserved through the program.

The Clean Ohio fund was established in July 2001 and includes $25 million in bond revenues to be spent over four years for farmland preservation.

Under the state’s program, by voluntarily selling an agricultural easement to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, a farmer can be paid the difference in price between the agricultural value and the development value and be assured the land will never be developed for any purposes except agricultural.

Land remains on the tax rolls and under private ownership and management.

Evaluate value. Grants are issued for up to 75 percent of the appraised value of the easement, and applicants must provide matching funds for at least 25 percent of the remaining value. The farmer may also donate that portion of the value of the easement.

State caps limit the program to one award per landowner; a maximum of $3,000 per acre; and a maximum of $1 million per landowner per funding round, according to the application.

No more than $1 million may be awarded to any one county per funding year. Butler, Clark, Fairfield and Portage counties reached that threshold.

Other counties with preserved farms include Ashland, Fulton, Greene, Holmes, Knox, Madison and Wayne, with one each; plus Montgomery, three; and Seneca, five.

Tough decision. All farms were chosen after an extensive review of 442 applicants from 49 counties offering 63,193 acres for protection under the program’s first funding round.

The review, conducted by the 13-member Farmland Preservation Advisory Board, used criteria prescribed by the Ohio General Assembly and adopted in administrative rules.

Top-ranked farms underwent independent appraisals before the state made offers to owners. Owners then had the opportunity to accept or reject the state’s offer before the state sought Controlling Board approval.

For next round. Two-hundred ninety-nine applications from second-round fund hopefuls have been received by the state, according to spokesperson Melanie Wilt.

The 2004 round will include $3.1 million in state funds, Wilt said in an earlier interview.

The next deadline for landowners interested in applying for the program is April 30, 2004, she said.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at

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Hebron man donates rights to state to preserve farm

REYNOLDSBURG – Licking County farmer Harold Powers of Hebron recently donated a permanent agricultural easement on his 118-acre farm to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The donation ensures the farm will never be developed for nonfarm purposes.

This is the third such donation receive by the state in Licking County in the last two years.

Family heritage. “My great-grandfather bought this farm in 1842,” said Powers. “With the donation of a permanent easement, this land will now stay in agriculture forever – it will never be developed. This makes me very happy.”

Donation details. Under the department’s Agricultural Easement Donation Program, landowners can donate an agricultural easement on their farm to the state, a county, municipality, township, or a charitable organization, such as a land trust.

These are voluntary legal agreements restricting 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 nonfarm development travels with the land ensuring it would never be developed for nonfarm uses.

Benefits. Landowners who donate an agricultural easement can also receive federal tax advantages. Donated easements that meet Internal Revenue Code criteria are treated as charitable gifts. Interested landowners should seek professional advice from an accountant or attorney.

Since the legislature gave the department the authority to hold agricultural easements in January 2000, more than 11,000 acres have been secured under permanent easement, including 14 donations totaling over 1,600 acres.

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Get the details

* Office of Farmland Preservation

Ohio Department of Agriculture




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