Commissioners support Ag easement applications


The Fayette County Commissioners recently passed two resolutions supporting applications into the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP).

The commissioners showed support for the applications of Jess and Jami Sears and Douglas and Teresa Barton for them to get into the LAEPP with Fayette County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) as the co-holder of the easement.

“Basically, the program allows the (ODA) to purchase an agricultural easement on farmland,” SWCD director, Chet Murphy said. “Fayette SWCD is the local sponsor for Fayette County. If applicants are accepted, the landowner is paid up to 75 percent of the value of the easement. Easement value is calculated based on the difference between the county auditor’s appraised market value and CAUV of the parcel(s). Farmers continue to own the land, farm it, and can sell it or make agricultural improvements, but they cannot add non-agricultural commercial or housing developments. Funding is from the Clean Ohio Fund which was re-approved through a state-wide ballot a few years ago.”

Murphy said that application to the program is entirely voluntary and Fayette SWCD assists interested landowners through the application process. Applicant farms are scored through an ODA online application and is primarily based on development pressure, proximity to other protected properties and soil types.

“We had five applicants this year,” Murphy said. “Three decided the calculated easement value was too low to proceed. The remaining two will be forwarded to ODA for consideration. Neither ODA or Fayette SWCD pre-select farms to include in the program. Again, the program is entirely voluntary.”

Recently, the board of Fayette County Commissioners adopted a comprehensive guide to future growth. The agriculture section of this guide states, “Fayette County prides itself in its rich agricultural heritage. Historically, agriculture has been the county’s predominant land use. The vision for Fayette county is to preserve this agricultural heritage while promoting managed housing, development and economic growth…Goal three: Promote programs and industries that protect agricultural lands and build on Fayette County’s strong agricultural base.” (page 86, enVISION Fayette County).

“Prior to Fayette SWCD’s involvement with the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, there was no certified local sponsor to assist interested landowners who wished to apply to the program,” Murphy said. “Therefore, Fayette SWCD decided to take on this duty as it fulfills a local demand for services, fits the stated goals of the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and is in line with Fayette SWCD’s mission to assist local citizens to voluntarily address local nature resource concerns. The Sears farm has the highest score of any applicant this year. It is very close to several other farms in Fayette and Greene County that are already protected. The program promotes the formation of these larger tracts of protected lands. Large protected tracts are more likely to remain in agriculture for the long term than is a single small isolated tract.”

The commissioners also approved the appointment of Brian Ream as a Fayette County Memorial Hospital trustee. Commissioner Dan Dean said he knows Ream very well and that he was recommended by the hospital. Dean also said that his business experience and personal integrity will allow him to do a great job for the community in that role. Finally, Dean commented on the recent appointment of Aaron Coole as Fayette County Auditor.

“I don’t know Mr. Coole very well, but we of course will wish him the best,” Dean said. “We need the person in that position to do a great job for the county. The commissioners rely on that office heavily for information that we get, especially when it’s related to income and taxes. He will also work closely with our State Auditor’s Office and we always have a good audit for Fayette County, so we are hoping that will continue and I am sure it will. But we wish him the best and look forward to working with him.”

The information in this article was submitted by Chet Murphy, Director of the Fayette Soil & Water Conservation District.

By Martin Graham

[email protected]

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy

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