The Ohio Department of Agriculture's Office of Farmland Preservation will be accepting applications from local sponsor groups for the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program until Nov. 15. From the applicants, the ODA will select local sponsor groups to help administer funding from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund in 2014.
The local focus of the program is designed to increase the input of local communities on farmland preservation. Eligible groups include local land trusts, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local governments. The groups will be selected for participation based on their experience managing easement programs and local support for preservation of farmland. Once the local organizations have been granted funding, they will work with landowners interested in applying for easement purchases to preserve their farmland in perpetuity.
The LAEPP provides funding to assist landowners and communities in preserving Ohio's farmland, our most vital resource. The program purchases agricultural easements from landowners who volunteer to keep their land in agricultural production in perpetuity.
In 2013 the program was changed to the LAEPP to reflect the increased role of ODA's local sponsors in farmland preservation: counties, cities, townships, Soil & Water Conservation Districts and land trusts, according to Denise Franz King, director farmland presevervation with ODA.
Landowners apply through pre-approved local sponsors using an online application on the ODA's website. Each local sponsor receives a portion of the Clean Ohio funds appropriated that year to purchase easements from the highest scoring applicants in their area. The program is highly competitive with about one in 15 applications being funded.
When a landowner proposes to sell an easement to ODA, the landowner must be able to demonstrate that retaining that farm in agricultural production in perpetuity is compatible with the township's or county's community plan and that it is not in the direct path of development. ODA encourages local governments to identify areas where agriculture is the predominant land use and where landowners want to remain in farming and take steps to preserve blocks of land to support Ohio's # 1 industry, food and agriculture.
Additional information is available at www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/FarmLand/FarmLand.aspx