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Ohio’s newest farmland preservation tool gets a test
By JANE HOUIN
Ohio Correspondent

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Utilizing Ohio’s newest farmland preservation tool, the Lomer Von Seggern and Thomas and Laurie Von Seggern families have made history in creating the first Agricultural Security Area (ASA) in the state.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners, York Township Board of Trustees, and Von Seggern families have committed to protect 554 acres of local farmland for a period of 10 years, through the Ohio ASA Program.

“Farm commodity sales in Fulton County total more than $88 million annually and, therefore, we believe in doing everything possible to support our farmers,” said Paul Barnaby, a Fulton County commissioner on why the ASA was important for preserving farmland.

“The ASA program is a farmland preservation tool that has a lot of protections written into it, both for the farmland owners and for the community.”

Through the program, one or more landowners of at least 500 adjoining farmland acres may submit a request to their local township trustees and county commissioners for enrollment into an ASA.

If agreed by both groups of local officials through a public hearing, the enrollment prevents extension of water and sewer lines, new roads, housing subdivisions, or commercial and industrial facilities within the ASA. Likewise, farmland owners commit their land to only agricultural uses. After the term expires, the ASA can be renewed for another 10 years.

“Food and agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry, and the ASA program is one more tool that farmers and communities can use to protect the pillar of that industry, farmland,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Executive Director of Farmland Preservation Michael Bailey about the importance of the ASA program.

ASAs are voluntary, respect private property rights, are locally controlled, and protect and encourage agriculture through the preservation of productive farmland areas. ASAs protect against non-agricultural development and sustain family farms through the preservation of critical land masses.

A major new benefit for farmers who own land within an ASA is they may be eligible for a tax exemption on investments of $25,000 or more in a building, structure, improvement or fixture that is used exclusively for agricultural purposes. A farmer must request this tax benefit from both county commissioners and township trustees who, at their discretion, may approve such a request.

In addition, landowners who enroll their land in an ASA will receive two additional points on the Tier One ranking of their applications to the 2006 Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (AEPP), which are due April 7. For the 2006 AEPP, the ODA anticipates they will have up to $5 million to purchase agricultural easements from willing landowners.

The ASA Program was developed from House Bill 414, which was sponsored by Rep. Tony Core, and became effective May 15, 2005. The ODA’s Office of Farmland Preservation provides technical assistance to farmers and local officials interested in creating an ASA.

For details on the ASA program, call the office at 614-728-6210 or visit ODA’s website at www.ohioagriculture.gov/asa

3/29/2006