Agricultural easements keep farmland from turning into developments.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK.
COLUMBUS -- Ohio agriculture would have been better off if it could have received a larger portion of the Clean Ohio Fund, former Sen. John Glenn told participants of the Sixth Annual Farmland Preservation Summit.
About 175 Ohioans interested in preserving Ohio's farmland attended the Summit at the Ohio Department of Agriculture offices in Reynoldsburg on Thursday.
Glenn was applauded for his work as a key promoter of the Clean Ohio Fund Campaign in 2000.
"It's important we not squander land that makes Ohio what it is today," Glenn told summit participants.
The $400 million Clean Ohio Fund provides only $25 million for farmland preservation, through an agricultural easement program. Under the program, farmers agree to keep the land agricultural in perpetuity and can't turn it into a commercial or residential development. In return, the farmers get tax benefits and cash, the amount varying with the size of the parcel.
According to Glenn, the Clean Ohio Fund was scheduled to run only four years. However, it appears that its $25 million won't be used up till 2008.
Supporters of the easements told participants the easements are helping to preserve Ohio farmland, but they can be hard to get.
According to Michael Bailey, executive director of the ODA Office of Farmland Preservation, there were 168 applications in 2005, and only 25 were approved.
One of those approved applications was from former Wayne County Commissioner Fred Cannon, who attended the summit.
He said many Wayne County farmers are hesitant to apply for the easements because the application process is lengthy, and it's disappointing when applications are not approved. Nevertheless, many believe the easements are worth the effort.
"It pays to apply," Bailey said.
Bailey also told participants that farmers markets are a growing trend that seems to promote agriculture while directly assisting farmers.