Grants could find way to save farms

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COLUMBUS – Three projects will test-drive new ideas to protect Ohio’s farmland.
Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation awarded grants, totaling more than $100,000, to applicants in Portage, Wayne and Clark counties.
The center will act as a partner on each of the projects, and each community is contributing at least a 25 percent local match in either direct or in-kind funding.
These are the first awards made through the center’s Farmland Protection Partnership Program, according to Jill Clark, interim director of the center, housed in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
The center is planning to request proposals for another round of funding in 2007
Clark announced the awards Nov. 2 at the seventh annual Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The awards went to:
Portage County TDR. A partnership between the village of Hiram, Hiram Township and Hiram College will study whether Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) are a viable tool to protect farmland in the township and stimulate growth in the village.
TDRs, which have been used in other states to protect farmland but never before in Ohio, focus development in areas that have the services to handle growth and protect land in areas that don’t.
Farmers are compensated for protected land and developers are provided bonuses in areas that are considered to be able to handle growth.
With the $58,900 grant and local support from collaborators (including the Portage County Regional Planning Commission, Hiram Township, Hiram College, the village of Hiram, the Hiram Comprehensive Planning Group, and Citizens for Hiram), the community will form a Citizens Advisory Committee of economic development officials, Realtors, farmers, developers and others. The committee will hold seminars and work with an expert to determine whether TDRs will work in the Hiram area.
The end result will be a feasibility study that will then translate into policy and program recommendations for the area.
Wayne County review. Wayne County, along with collaborators in Holmes and Ashland counties, will use a $17,875 grant to conduct a comprehensive review of all the county’s policies to determine their effect on agriculture and land use, and then suggest revisions to present to county commissioners.
The process will begin in Wayne County and be replicated in the other two counties.
About three years ago, Wayne County formed an Ag Success Team to discuss area-wide strategies to support agriculture, said Ann Obrecht, Wayne County commissioner.
“With this grant, we’ll be looking at all county policies that might have an effect on land use, including subdivision regulations, water use policies, health department regulations and engineering codes,” Obrecht said.
“We’ve faced state and federal regulations that have unintended consequences, and we thought we might have some of those, too. And if so, we want to do something about it.”
Katie Myers of the Wayne County Planning Department will be leading the 20-month effort.
In Clark County. Clark County received a $36,000 grant for the “Clark County Farmland Policy Innovation Program: Agriculture in the Economy.” The money will be used to develop a strategy for finding a funding source to protect an additional 10,000 acres of farmland in its ongoing farmland preservation program – a joint venture with the Tecumseh Land Trust.
“We started a partnership with the Tecumseh Land Trust six years ago, when we gave them $50,000 in seed money,” said John Detrick, Clark County commissioner. “They’ve turned that into $4 million, and when the program is over, it will be $5 million, all to save farmland in Clark County.”
“We are already one of the leading counties in the Midwest, and probably in the United States, in preserving farmland,” Detrick said, with 10,000 acres currently held in the land trust.

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