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Ohio Farm Bureau supports member urging Ohio Supreme Court to accept case
by Leah Curtis
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) and Henry County Farm Bureau are supporting an Ohio Supreme Court case pursued by a member who suffered significant losses after a county drainage project caused his tomato field to flood.
The case would determine whether a farmer renting land has a right to compensation when the government appropriates that land for a public use.
In 2003, Farm Bureau member Rick Rohrs and his brother leased land with plans to plant tomatoes. Prior to leasing, however, a public project was undertaken by the county to improve drainage and secure the integrity of a nearby county road. A tile main and catch basin which drained the field they leased was not connected to the new tile main, but instead sealed off with concrete as a part of the improvement work. The Rohrs had no knowledge of this action, nor did they have any way to know the drainage of the field had suffered as a result. Because the tile main had been sealed, the fields they planted eventually flooded, causing a complete crop loss over several acres.
The trial court and the Third District both refused Rohrs’ claim to begin eminent domain proceedings. The courts found that because Rohrs only leased the ground, and did not own it, he had no right to pursue a claim for compensation of the taking against the county government.
WHY WE’RE INVOLVED
Statistics from the 2007 Census of Agriculture suggest that nearly 45 percent of Ohio farmland is rented from another owner. With a finite amount of land, it becomes more and more necessary for farmers to rent ground in order to sustain and grow their farms.
Because of the common practice of renting farmland, and the need to ensure that leaseholders retain the right to pursue eminent domain claims in court, Ohio Farm Bureau and the Henry County Farm Bureau felt it necessary to lend their voice in support of this member in urging the Ohio Supreme Court to accept the case.
The Ohio Supreme Court has a choice to accept cases like these, so the first step was to provide enough information for the Court to understand how important this case will be to Ohio farmers.
PROVIDING UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
As amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” OFBF and Henry County Farm Bureau provide a unique perspective to the Ohio Supreme Court. The respect we enjoy at the Statehouse also extends to the courthouse, and just as it’s important to provide background information on legislation to our legislators, it is important to make sure our judges are aware of the unique situations Ohio farmers face. While the parties to the case will be looking to the specific facts, our status as a “friend” provides for a broader, more general explanation of why this case affects the broader public interest.
Learn more about eminent domain laws with the Farm Bureau Legal Information Series.
Leah Curtis is the director of legal education for Ohio Farm Bureau