Preserving Ohio’s farmland

Farmers are faced with many challenges these days during the current economic state. To offset costs during this struggling time, farmers sometimes sell their land to developers. However, it is important now more than ever for farmers to take initiative to preserve their farmlands.

There are many federal programs under the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture to help with this issue.

Programs like the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Farmland Protection Program are a few of the mandatory programs authorized to receive obligatory funding and protected from cuts.

The American Farmland Trust (AFT) is also committed to protecting the nation's best farm and ranch land and improving the economic viability of agriculture, according to its Web site.

During the past 28 years, AFT helped stimulate the creation of 27 state-level farmland protection programs, as well as countless local ordinances and programs that give landowners the tools they need to keep their land in farming. AFT works with federal, state and local leaders and communities to develop legislation, implement policies and execute programs that keep farmers on their land and protect the environment.

Across the country, agricultural organizations are working with farmers to preserve their land.

For example, John Torres, director of the Fairfield County Farm Bureau in Ohio, knows how important it is for farmland owners to help keep it that way, but that they may not necessarily know the steps to take.

“We’ve got some of the best soils in the country (in Ohio), and we want to educate people on how to protect that land,” said Torres.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) recently held informational sessions in Ohio’s four regions to educate landowners about the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (AEPP), which is a part of the Clean Ohio Fund, which also includes three other statewide programs: the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund, the Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Program and the Clean Ohio Trails Fund.

The program buys agricultural easements, which is a voluntary, permanent, legally binding restriction placed on a farm that limits the use of the land to predominantly agricultural activity, from interested Ohio farmland owners to preserve the land and prevent future commercial development.

“It gives a face to the program and gives them more of an opportunity to learn and participate in the program,” said Kaleigh Frazier, ODA public information officer.

Ohio is not the only state striving to protect its farmland. Other states that have similar easement programs are Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa.

Why do you think it’s important to preserve Ohio’s farmland? What else can be done to help our farmers? Please comment below.

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