By DOUG GRAVES
MARION, Ohio — More Ohio farmland will remain Ohio farmland.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced recently ,134 acres of farmland in Washington County, Ohio, has been added to the state’s Farmland Preservation program. The 134-acre farm is located in Warren Township and is the latest addition to the program, which now includes more than 103,041.42 acres of dedicated farmland across the state since the program began in 1998. This farm will be permanently protected from development and will continue to be used for agricultural purposes.
The Office of Farmland Preservation partners with landowners, local government, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts to permanently preserve Ohio farmland in agricultural easements. An agricultural easement is a voluntary, perpetual agreement between a landowner and the Ohio Department of Agriculture that permanently preserves Ohio farms in agricultural production, strengthening Ohio’s number one industry: food and agriculture. In exchange, the landowner is either compensated or may be entitled to a tax deduction.
The farmland can be sold or passed along as a gift to others at any time, but the restrictions prohibiting non-agricultural development stays with the land. So far, 681 farms have entered into agreements in the past 25 years.
Funds from the purchase of these easements are invested into the local economy by the landowners who use them by expanding their farming operations, purchasing new equipment, reducing debt, adding conservation practices, planning for retirement, sending their children to college or for other purposes. When the state purchases a farmland easement, the proceeds are plowed into Ohio’s economy and the state’s agriculture industry is preserved for future generations.
Bob Lill of Marion County was the first to join the program this year. In January, Lill donated 96.57 acres to the Farmland Preservation Program.
Lill is no stranger to fellow farmers in central Ohio. Lill was honored with a Conservation Farm Family Award at the 2016 Farm Science Review for his conservation efforts on the farm. He farms more than 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. His conservation efforts included converting naturally wet ground into a 4.4-acre wetland surrounded by 1.8 acres of mature prairie that is enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program. His other conservation practices include using no-till, crop residue management, crop rotation and grass waterways to protect water quality and erosion. He also uses pollinators such as monarchs on the farm.
ODA’s Farmland Preservation program is a relatively easy procedure. Landowner applications are submitted by local sponsors in each county. Local sponsors are governments, soil and water conservation districts, and nonprofit conservation organizations that have applied to ODA to take part in the program.
Applications are scored and the highest scoring farms for each local sponsor are selected for easement purchase offers. The process to close an easement purchase is like any other real estate transaction. Once a landowner application is selected for purchase, the local sponsor works with the landowners to obtain a 90-year title search, complete any subordinations, and remedy any conditions on the property or in the title that may interfere with the purpose of the easement.
Upon satisfactory completion of all requirements, the parties attend a closing with the title agent. The deed of agricultural easement is signed and recorded, and the purchase funds are transferred to the landowner.
For questions about the process of preserving farmland in Ohio, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 614-728-6238.