Jun. 23—The Ohio Department of Agriculture has recently announced the approval for local sponsors to purchase agricultural easements on 37 family farms representing 3,701 acres in 29 counties, including those in Clark and Champaign.
The local sponsors involved include land trusts, county governments and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. They have received funding from the Clean Ohio Fund to manage the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.
The goal of the program is to ensure that farms remain permanently in agricultural production and the program also supports the state's largest industry, which remains food and agriculture, according to a news release from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Farms that are eligible for the program must be larger than 40 acres or next to a preserved farm, actively engaged in farming, participate in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation program, demonstrate good stewardship of the land, have support from local government and not be in close proximity to development.
Though those landowners can choose how to use the proceeds of the easement, most reinvest it in their farming operations, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Funding for the state's farmland preservation efforts come from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, which was approved by voters in 2008. That money is used to purchase agricultural easements from willing sellers through a competitive process.
An agricultural easement is defined by Ohio Revised Code as an incorporeal right or interest in land that is held for the public purpose of retaining the use of land predominantly in agriculture. According to the state, 589 family farms in 61 counties have collectively preserved 91,507 acres in agricultural production between 2002 and 2022. That includes farms in both Clark and Champaign counties.
The state added that permanent easements preserved under related programs bring the total acres currently preserved in Ohio to over 102,000.