|REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey encourages farmers to invest in their farm’s future by placing their farmland in an “agricultural district.” Forms are available at all local county auditor’s offices.
“The agricultural district law is one of the best farmland protection tools the state has today because it can help keep the farmer on the farm and land in production,” said Dailey. “By having farmland designated as an agricultural district, farmers can gain protection from nuisance lawsuits, defer expensive development assessments until the land is changed to a non-agriculture use, and protect farmland from some eminent domain land acquisitions.”
Landowners can qualify for an agricultural district with 10 or more acres or land that generates an average of at least $2,500 annually for three years prior to application. This status needs to be renewed every five years. Updated application forms are now available at Ohio county auditor offices.
The benefits of enrolling in an agricultural district include:
•Nuisance suits protection: Agricultural district status can protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits as long as the farmer is following acceptable best management practices. This can serve as an affirmative defense in frivolous lawsuits for odors and noises associated with agriculture.
•Deferring assessments: Another aspect of development that can impact a farm is the extension of water, sewer, and electric lines. These lines are usually paid for by the landowner, often assessed on frontage. A farmer with extensive frontage could face costs large enough to require selling a portion of the farm. To prevent that, the law defers the assessments on agricultural district farmland, excluding the homestead, until the land is changed to another use or withdrawn from the agricultural district.
•Eminent domain protection: If eminent domain is used on 10 acres or 10 percent of the total agricultural district land, whichever is greater, the law calls for a review by the state agriculture director to determine if an alternative to the proposed project is possible. This could serve to discourage frivolous seizing of private land in agricultural production.
A companion law is the current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. The CAUV provides relief on farmland property taxes. Please contact your local county auditor’s office for more information about the agricultural district or CAUV programs.