LONDON — Madison County Commissioners announced in December the application period for the Madison County Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (Easement Program).
Julia Cumming, program administrator for the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District, attended the Madison County Commissioners meeting Mon. Dec. 11 to discuss the application process and the deadline. The application period for this program is Jan. 18 through March 30.
“The far majority of landowners who come into my office apply to preserve the farm and prevent development,” said Cumming. “The financial gain is a far distant second.” However, she says that the funds can be used for anything, but the most common uses are to pay debt, buy more land and expend farm business.
The Madison County Commissioners were awarded $907,151 from the Ohio Department of Agriculture Clean Ohio Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program. The money will be used to purchase agricultural easements from willing landowners who wish to preserve their farm in perpetuity. An agricultural easement is a voluntary, permanent, legally binding restriction that limits the use of the land to predominantly agriculture activity.
Farms with the highest scores are offered a price for their easement based on the score, not to exceed $2,000 per acre and $500,000 total. The Madison County Commissioners would co-hold the easement with Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and/or the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Farms will be monitored once per year to ensure compliance. Madison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) does not provide legal or financial advice. Landowners are encouraged to seek advice from their own advisors.
To apply, the farm must be: (1) at least 40 acres in size (or 10-39 acres if contiguous to existing protected land); (2) enrolled in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program; and (3) enrolled in an Agricultural District.
The benefit of an agricultural easement is that the landowner owns the land and may sell, gift or otherwise convey it to others, according to Cumming. In addition, the farm will remain in one piece because the landowner and future generations will not be able to subdivide the farm into smaller farms or houses once the agricultural easement is placed on it. One homestead is allowed per farm.
Costs associated with placing a conservation easement on the land will come out of closing or directly from the landowner. Some costs could be a new survey, an appraisal, title/closing services, and a 1 percent stewardship fee based on the purchase price of the easement.
The program is highly competitive and funding is not guaranteed. To apply, contact the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District at 740-852-4003 option 3 to make an appointment before March 30.