Ag districts can help preserve farmlands

Thanks to the internet, you can find statistics on farmland over the last 20
years.

In 2000, farmland represented 41.1% of the total land in the U.S. and in 2010 it was down to 39.8%. It was a drop of 1.3%, which doesn’t seem too bad until you realize that 29,420,000 acres of farmland was lost. From 2010 to 2020, the amount of farmland lost was 19,060,000 acres, a decrease of 0.82%. A little better, but still a concerning downward trend. 

This downward trend did not start in 2000, but many years earlier. It did not go unnoticed by our elected officials. In 1982, the Ohio General assembly took action to help preserve Ohio farmland. They passed Senate Bill 78, which is commonly
referred to as Ohio’s Farmland Preservation Act.

This important legislation created agricultural districts to promote the
preservation of agricultural land. These ag districts are voluntary and can provide benefits to help farmers keep farming.

One of the benefits is 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.

Another benefit deals with the deferment of development assessments
until land is changed to non-agricultural use. When new water, electric,
or sewer lines are added or extended, the cost is often assessed to the
property owner based on their road frontage. These costs can add up quickly
for a farmer. My family knows this scenario all too well. Years ago, when
mud roads were being improved to gravel roads, Leroy-Thompson and
Plank roads were targeted in the same year. My great-grandfather was a
modest farmer, as most were at that time, and his farm was where these
two roads met. The farm wasn’t large but did have considerable frontage
on both roads. Because of this, the tremendous assessments that were
levied upon him were more than he could financially and mentally
handle. My great-grandma moved the four kids to Painesville and began
teaching school.

If your land is in an ag district, this legislation places additional restrictions
upon eminent domain actions. If more than 10 acres or 10%
(whichever is greater) of any one property is proposed, the law calls
for a review by the state director of agriculture to determine if an alternative
is possible.

I wonder how this would have been applied when the Smallsreeds’ and many others’ farms were acquired through eminent domain for the creation of the Ravenna Arsenal?

The qualifications to be in an ag district are the same as for the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) program. You must have at least 10
acres used for agricultural production or activities for three years and have
an average yearly gross income of at least $2,500 during that time period.

I hope you won’t have need for the added protection that being in an
ag district provides, but if you qualify, why not participate?

The application for an ag district can be found on the county auditor’s
website. Already in an ag district?  Great, but don’t forget to renew this designation every five years. If you have questions, give us a call at our regional Farm Bureau office at 440-426-2195.

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.

 

OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.