The Madison County Commissioners were awarded $301,612 from the Ohio Department of Agriculture to purchase agricultural easements from willing landowners who wish to preserve his or her farm in perpetuity. An agricultural easement is a voluntary, permanent, legally binding restriction placed on a farm that limits the use of the land to predominantly agricultural activity. To apply for the agricultural easement purchase program, contact the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District by calling (740) 852-4003 before March 17 to make an appointment.
The benefit of an agricultural easement is that the landowner owns the land and may sell, gift or otherwise convey it to others. 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.
Farms with the highest scores are offered a price for their easement based on the score, not to exceed $2,000/acre and $500,000 total. 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% stewardship fee based on the purchase price of the easement.
To be eligible for the program, 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 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. Landowners are encouraged to seek legal and financial advice from their own advisors.
The program is competitive and funding is not guaranteed. Since 2002, thirty-one farms for a total of 7,204 acres have been accepted into the program, at an average price of $1,400/acre.