June 19, 2003 | Norris farm qualifies for ag easementReprinted from: Breithhaupt, George. 2003. Norris Farm Qualifies for ag easement. Mount Vernon News, 19 June.
GAMBlER - For Tim and Heidi Norris it was a red letter day, the end of a long and complex process. The Norrises had gone through the process of having their 50-acre farm qualify for an agricultural easement as part of the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.
A special ceremony was held at Kenyon College Wednesday morning to handle the final closing on the deal. On hand were the Norrises, Ohio Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey, Howard Wise of the Ohio Office of Farms land Preservation, Doug Givens of the Philander Chase Corp., county commissioners Tom McLarnan, Allen Stockberger and Bob Wise, and John Knepper, board secretary and director of the Philander Chase Corp. The Norrises received $155,980, of which $116,591 came from the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program; $39,389 came from the Philander Chase Foundation as a local match.
Before the signing, Dailey thanked the commissioners for attending the ceremony and for their support of the program and their interest in farmland preservation. "One of the reasons we are interested in farmland preservation is that agriculture is a land-based industry. It's not a factory that can just pick up and move to Mexico or California; it's land based, it's here. And if you lose that land, you lose the largest industry in Ohio," Dailey said. "It's a new concept, we re experimenting with it. We have an advisory committee. There will probably be some changes along the way; we'll probably stumble on some bricks along the way.
"We've tried to learn from some of the other states - we're about the 13th state that's come up with this program," he continued. "I sincerely want to thank Doug (Givens) and Kenyon College and Philander Chase for their strong support of farmland preservation. It's more than just preserving farmland. It's preserving a way of life."
Tim Norris added his thanks to all involved.
"I want to thank the ODA for your sponsorship of this program. You are to be commended for what you are trying to accomplish," Norris said. "I think the goals are very worthy and I want to thank Philander Chase, especially Doug, for all his hard work helping us get the application in and helping us work with the commissioners. I also want to thank the commissioners for signing off on it and allowing us to do this."
An agricultural easement is a voluntary legal agreement that restricts nonagricultural development on farmland, while keeping the land in private hands and on the tax rolls. The owner may use the land for any agricultural use permitted under Ohio law.
Tim Norris heard about the program about three years ago on a visit to the ODA. The goals of the program interested him and he attended a meeting at the Memorial Building several months later that explained the provisions of the program and the application process. He found out the Philander Chase Corp. had agreed to act as the applicant for local landowners. Individual property owners cannot make the application themselves; only a government agency or nonprofit land trust can do that. The Philander Chase Corp. qualified as a land trust and could make the applications for local landowners.
Norris reasons for deciding to apply for the AEPP were simple.
"After reviewing the application process I knew my farm would score high due to its location," he explained. "We were the optimal distance from water and sewer (lines), we were next to an Ohio Scenic River and the number of nonagricultural houses was in the desired range. So I thought it would not hurt to apply since it does not cost anything."
The Ohio Department of Agriculture's Office of Farmland Preservation is implementing the second round of funding for the program. Nearly 300 applicants from 45 counties are undergoing a two-step scoring process to determine eligibility for the program. Clean Ohio funds in the amount of $3.1 million is earmarked for the second round, with the possibility of additional funding from the USDA's Farmland Protection Program.
The 56-acre Norris farm is one of 24 statewide that has or will receive a portion of $7.86 million in the first round of the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program.