Madison County ag easement approved

By Dean Shipley

June 19, 2014

Madison County is one of 21 Ohio counties which has been approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) for local sponsors to purchase agricultural easements, it was announced this week.

Local sponsoring organizations, which include land trusts, counties and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, receive funding from the Clean Ohio Fund to manage the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP). The easement purchases will ensure farms remain permanently in agricultural production, while continuing under private ownership.

To be eligible for the program, farms must be larger than 40 acres, actively engaged in farming, participate in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, demonstrate good stewardship of the land, have support from local government and not be in close proximity to development.

Landowners may use the proceeds of the easement in any way they wish, but most reinvest it in their farm operation.

The 228 acres of the Bob and Ann Hunter farm in Paint Township qualified for the easement and will receive $421,904 to place that acreage in a permanent and perpetual agricultural easement. It guarantees the land will always remain in agriculture production.

“It’s a nice tool to pass the farm to the next generation,” said Julia Cumming, Madison County Soil and Water Conservations director and coordinator of the program for Madison County.

Communities wishing to participate next year can apply to be certified local sponsors between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, 2014.

Certified local sponsors assist landowners interested in selling easements with the application process, easement closing and monitoring, and are ODA’s valued partners in carrying out the Ohio Farmland Preservation program. Funding for the state’s farmland preservation efforts is derived from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, approved by voters in 2008, and used to purchase agricultural easements from willing sellers through a competitive process.

Since the program began, 315 family farms in 54 counties have collectively preserved 54,212 acres in agricultural production.

Madison County has also applied for federal funding for ag easement to allow more farms to be eligible. Two farms near the top of the list include those owned by Nancy and William Robinson and James Phillipi II.