Uncle Sam and Your Farm – Katie Myers-Griffith

My nerdy passion is land use.  Many of you may have already read my past blog on relating unplanned communities to hoarders, and if you haven’t read it you should.  This time I want to talk about land use and how it relates to the farmer. 

First, I will cover a few governmental land use programs that you as a farmer in Ohio, may be eligible for.  Second, I will cover a few guidelines outlined in the Ohio Revised Code that township officials are suppose to abide by, and thirdly I will discuss what you as an active community member can do to engage more farmers in the land use discussions.

Ohio Government Administered Land Use Programs for farmers (in a nut shell)

C.A.U.V. (Current Agricultural Use Valuation):  This is essentially a property tax break for commercial agriculture.  Commercial agriculture means you need to be taking either crops or critters to the market.  This program is not for hobby farmers.  Some criteria include a 10 acre minimum, unless an agricultural income of $2500 gross can be verified, you must re-enroll on an annual basis, and if the land is no longer in agricultural use, recoupment penalty is assessed.  This program is administered through the County Auditor’s office.

Agricultural District (Ag District): This is basically Ohio’s ‘right to farm’ program.  Some criteria include:  land must be enrolled in C.A.U.V.; land receives deferment of collection of new water and electric assessments, legal protection in the event of nuisance lawsuit, and relaxed air pollution standards.  This is a free program and is renewed every five years.  Penalties for early withdraw may be assessed.  This is also administered through the County Auditor’s office.

Agricultural Security Areas (ASA):  This is a partnership agreement between landowners, County Commissioners, and Township Trustees NOT to initiate ANY non-agricultural development for a period of ten years.  Some criteria include: land must be enrolled in both C.A.U.V. and Ag District, land must be at least 500 contiguous acres (this allows several farms to partner together), and the land must be in the unincorporated area (not within city or village limits).  There are tax benefits for investing in new real agricultural property – like new barns, manure storage pits, and more.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture administers this program.

One pager cheat sheet

Other Programs with a cost share benefit (high tunnels, riparian buffers, manure storage units & more)

Guidelines outlined in the Ohio Revised Code for Township Zoning and Agriculture (again, in a nutshell)

ORC 519.21 Powers not conferred on township zoning commission by chapter

According to the Ohio Revised Code, township zoning commissions, trustees, and or board of zoning appeals have no power to “prohibit the use of ANY land for agricultural purposes or the construction or use of buildings or structures incident to the use for agricultural purposes of the land on which the buildings or structures are located…and no zoning certificate shall be required for any such building or structure.”

So what does this mean for a landowner – farmer in any township in Ohio?  Regardless of the zone your property is in, you are not to be prohibited from agricultural activities.  This does not mean you have to farm for a business, this includes hobby farming, horse farming, and viticulture.  There are exceptions to the rule.  If you are located in a …

  1. In a platted subdivision of 15 or more approved lots if your lot is 1 acre or less.  They may prohibit agriculture.
  2. In a platted subdivision of 15 or more approved lots if your lot is greater than 1 acre but not greater than 5 acres they may regulate buildings or structures and or animal husbandry.
  3. There are other regulations if you plan on operating a farm market.  Contact me for that information.

*These rules do not apply to municipalities, villages, or home rule townships.


What can You as an Active Community Member do to Engage more Farmers in the Land Use Discussions

               The farming community needs to unite.  Land use discussions are taking place and frankly, farmers are not being heard.  Find out when your community meets (City Council meetings, Township Trustee meetings, and others) then…attend.  Let the leaders know of your presence and that you actually do care about the future of your land.  I realize that we are all very busy, farmers, especially.  However, if we farmers do not stand up and speak, they will think that we don’t care and develop our farmland.  If we, as a united group of taxpayers do not make our wishes, desires, or plans known…they will go unheard and unnoticed.  It is time, as you write your check to the Department of the Treasury, to let your vote count, make your voice heard.  Get involved!

               If you are not a farmer, but know a farmer…invite them to the necessary meetings, and even offer to help out on the farm in exchange!


2 thoughts on “Uncle Sam and Your Farm – Katie Myers-Griffith

  1. I don’t like what’s happening in my community but…. I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference, I don’t have the time, I don’t want to be a trouble maker, I don’t know anything about what’s going….

    These are typical responses people have when asked why they are upset with the way things happen in there communities, especially the rural communities.

    Get involved!

    I always tell people, you don’t even have to say anything when you go to these meetings. Just sitting there shows the leaders people ARE paying attention to what they are doing and the larger the attendance, the more on edge the leaders are because they can’t just do whatever they want. Besides, its free entertainment for one or two hours a month.

    Lots of people like to talk about how things could be better around the water cooler or at the grocery or the local feed mill but until you start going to the meetings and confronting the leaders and requiring them to be accountable for the actions they take, its a pretty sure fact nothing will change.

    Get together or form a committee, get your interests compiled and organized and go to the meetings. Don’t just go to one meeting and think it will be ok or nothing will happen so why go again, make the effort to attend the meetings monthly. If one person can’t go, have someone else make a presence. Ask what has been decided from the previous requests you or your group has made. Keep the leaders on focus of your concerns, don’t let them slide it off to one side and ignore it.

    I’ve been involved on both sides of the aisle and have seen that an ACTIVE attendance by concerned people can make a difference. Its not easy and can be fustrating at times especially dealing with the politics that will be involved but continued involvement will produce changes.

    Be vocal but be polite. Don’t allow it to turn into a shouting match or a name calling event. Just stick to the facts, speak in a normal voice, listen to what is being said and don’t interrupt. But make sure your point is acknowledged and recorded in the minutes and that you will be back to hear what has been done about it.

    Get educated!

    There are lots of resources available that can help you understand the issues of zoning, planning, land use etc. Use them. Read, attend workshops and seminars, consult with proffesionals that are willing to help you and study BOTH sides of the issues. Don’t just focus on the points that support your arguement but also look at what the opposite side is. You will find it can help you support your arguement if you know whats going to be said to discourage you. Share the information with others that are of like mind so when you do get involved. Facts can’t be disputed and twisted and ignored like emotional or personal interests can.

    Remember, these people REQUIRE your vote at election time to keep their jobs so make sure they are doing that job and not just catering to special interests, primarily their own. It is their job to answer your questions and concerns, not just shrug you off.

    If your a farmer, take note of this. Of all the meetings I have attended over the years, most are focused on land use and farm needs but you are not there. not on the boards and not in the audience. Get involved, get educated and defend yourself. Otherwise you will be overrun by “city people” doing what “they” think is best for you, in their own way with no idea of what farming entails or YOUR needs.

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