Wayne County currently has a vibrant agricultural sector and agriculture is recognized as a major economic driver. What will the future hold? A quick look at some current issues including: nutrient management legislation, a growing population and increasing urban/rural interfaces suggests to me that farmland preservation is an important topic to address if agriculture is going to continue to play a prominent role in Wayne County and in providing food security in our region.
One tool that can be used by farmland owners to retain land for agricultural purposes is the Agricultural Security Area (ASA) program established by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Chapter 931 of the Ohio Revised Code contains the provision of the ASA program (http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/931) that I will summarize in this article. Essentially, the ASA program acts as a limited time farmland preservation program by creating special areas where agriculture is encouraged while restricting non-agricultural development. The ASA can also offer possible tax benefits for investing in new real –agriculture property. A landowner or multiple landowners with land ownership of 500 or more contiguous acres of farmland can request enrollment into an ASA for a 10 year period. Enrollment comes from the boards of county commissioners and township trustees.
The basic eligibility requirements to be considered for ASA enrollment include:
- The 500 acres (or more) of farmland may be in different parcels, but they all must be contiguous.
- The farmland may be owned by one or more landowners, but all must agree to enroll.
- The farmland must be located in an unincorporated area of a township or county.
- The farmland must be enrolled in Agricultural Districts program and the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program.
- The applicant(s) must not have been found to have violated, in either a criminal or civil case, any environmental laws within the ten years preceding the application.
- The farming conducted must be in accordance with best practices, as certified by the local Natural Resource Conservation Service or Soil and Water Conservation District.
- A summary of the benefits of enrollment in an ASA include:
- The county/township may not build any new roads or install any new water or sewer lines without an exemption order from the Ohio or U.S. EPA.
- With the agreement of the township trustees and board of county commissioners, may grant landowners up to a 75 percent exemption on the real property taxes for improvements (construction or rehabilitation of agriculture related buildings and structures) made after enrollment in the ASA.
- Non-agricultural development is prohibited within the ASA for 10 years.
- Currently in Wayne County approximately 25 landowners are using the ASA program to protect approximately 5,500 acres.
In order to be considered for enrollment in the ASA program an application must be completed and submitted to the board of Wayne County commissioners and to the applicable board of township trustees. To request an application, or for more information contact Shawn Starlin of the Wayne County Ag Success Team and Wayne County Economic Development Council, at 330-264-2411 or by email at: email@example.com.