If you own farmland in Ohio, there’s a law that can help you protect that land. It’s a law that has important benefits for Ohio farmers and can help ensure proper use of our state’s most important resource – land. The law is Chapter 929 of the Ohio Revised Code, better known as the Farmland Preservation Act and commonly referred to as the “right to farm.” The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation was instrumental in the drafting and passage of this law, which can help landowners deal with water, sewer lawsuits, and eminent domain. In 1982, Farm Bureau worked with legislators to adopt this law which will help keep you farming. In Ohio, this law is known as an agricultural district.
Before David Thomas officially started on the job as county auditor, he sat down with us to see what farmers concerns were in the county. At this point, we didn’t have a firm grasp on just how underutilized ag district law was in the county. Little did we know that a charter amendment proposal, over the next few weeks, would lead us to realize only seven (7) farms in the county were enrolled in an ag district. Through discussions with members in the county, Farm Bureau realized a consistent number of farmers were once enrolled and didn’t realize that ag districts had to be renewed every five years or really didn’t understand what an ag district was.
On April 29, as part of the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau Agricultural Landowner Toolkit series, we hosted a meeting with the Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas and his team members, Heather Hall and Dennis Huey, to discuss CAUV, the 2020 re-evaluation and agricultural districts. Over 150 farmers and landowners were in attendance!
The ag district program provides an affirmative defense for farmers in certain types of nuisance lawsuits and is one of the best and most underutilized tools in agriculture. Enrolling in an ag district is an extra legal tool in the defense of your operation and if you plan on keeping your land in agriculture for at least three years, you should enroll.
You may be wondering what the benefits of having an agricultural district designation are:
You have a legal defense against nuisance lawsuits. Your agricultural operation is protected if it meets four criteria: it’s in an agricultural district, was established prior to the neighbors who are suing, the neighbors suing aren’t farmers and the farm-related activities don’t violate any other laws and are done in accordance with acceptable agricultural practices.
To help farmers and landowners have a better understanding of these programs, OFBF Policy Counsel, Leah Curtis has compiled a list of things you should know about these programs.
- Landowners can enroll in an agricultural district with their county auditor. The land must be at least 10 acres, or if less than 10 acres, have an average gross income of at least $2,500 from agricultural production. While the requirements are the same as for the Current Agricultural Use Value program, a landowner must enroll in each program separately.
- Agricultural district registration affords important benefits to landowners, including an affirmative defense in certain nuisance suits that might be filed against a landowner for their agricultural activities. Other benefits concern assessments for water, sewer, and electric and eminent domain review.
- If the land is in a municipality, the agricultural district enrollment must be approved by the city’s legislative body and the benefits of the ag district program can be modified.
If you have any questions on ag districts and/or the application process, call the county auditor’s office at 440-576-3788. Applications can also be found online. If you are a Farm Bureau member and need an ag district sign, stop into our office located right across from the auditor’s office at 28 W Jefferson Street, Jefferson.
Additionally, if you are a farmer or landowner with any suggestions on topics that you would like addressed, please call the Farm Bureau office at 440.426.2195 or email me at [email protected].
Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau Organization Director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull Counties. Mandy can be reached at [email protected].