January 25, 2003 | The Farmland Preservation ProgramReprinted from: Breithhaupt, George. 2003. The Farmland Preservation Program. Mount Vernon News, 25 January.
The Farmland Preservation program was first considered in the 1970s. The idea had been implemented mostly in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states during that time. The program proposed to purchase easements on agricultural land to protect it from urban sprawl and to keep it productive agriculturally.
An agriculture easement is a. voluntary legal agreement by the farmland owner to keep land for primarily agricultural use. In such a case the landowner gives up the right to develop the land for anything but agricultural use. The easement is held by either governmental agency or a nonprofit organization. The easement holder has the legal right to enforce the provisions of the agreement and require the landowner to abide by them. The easement is permanent and remains in effect when the land sold.
In Ohio, the movement to adopt a farmland preservation program gained momentum in the late 1980s and early 90s, borne out of an increased public interest in preserving green space and small-scale family farms. In 1996, former Gov. George Voinovich appointed a task force to study the possibility of adopting a statewide preservation program. The task force recommended the creation of an office of farmland preservation within the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the creation of an agricultural easement purchase program (AEPP).
To this end, Senate Bill 223 was passed in January 1999 enabling the Ohio Department of Agriculture, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to hold, acquire and accept agricultural easements. The program was voluntary but the Senate did not provide finding. The bill effectively provided for the creation of the Clean Ohio Fund Agricultural Easement Purchase Program as well as a donation program. There have been seven easements donated to the ODA as of December 2001.
The Ohio Revised Code. Section 5301.67 defines an agricultural easement as "An incorporeal right or interest in land that is held for the public purpose of retaining the use of land predominantly in agriculture; that impose, any limitations at the time of creation of the easement to achieve that purpose; that is in the form of articles of dedication, easement, covenant, restriction or condition; and that includes appropriate provisions for the holder to enter property subject to the easement at reasonable times to ensure compliance with its provisions."