The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) recently announced approval for local sponsors to purchase agricultural easements on 51 family farms representing 6,107 acres in 22 counties. Local sponsoring organizations, which include land trusts, counties, and local soil and water conservation districts, receive funding to manage the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program. These easements ensure farms remain permanently in agricultural production, supporting the state’s largest industry: food and agriculture.

In Delaware County, seven family farms submitted applications for the 2018 funding round and four were accepted. This is up from 2017 with three applications and one acceptance. Once the new easements are finalized, this will bring the county’s total easement acres to just under 1,500.

To be eligible for the program, farms must be larger than 40 acres or next to a preserved farm, actively engaged in an agricultural use, participate in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, demonstrate good stewardship of the land, have support from local government and not be in proximity to development. Landowners may use the proceeds of the easement in any way they wish, but most reinvest it in their farm operation. Several of the farms in the Delaware program have been recognized as Ohio Historic Family Farms by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Communities wishing to participate next year can apply to be Certified Local Sponsors between Aug. 21 and Oct. 12, 2018. 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. For Delaware County, the Board of County Commissioners began serving as the local sponsor in 2016 and landowners submit applications with the assistance of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District.

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. From 2002 to 2017, 340 family farms in 58 counties have collectively preserved 59,165 acres in agricultural production.

Anyone interested in the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program can call Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District at 740-368-1921 for details or visit Ohio Department of Agriculture online. Work on the 2019 funding round is expected to start in January.

Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District’s mission is Helping You Help the Land. Check out our Facebook page for What is it Wednesday? and follow us on Instagram.

Great programs and ideas can be found at www.delawareswcd.org.

Article by Bonnie Dailey – Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District.

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