All easements that enter either the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP) or the Agricultural Easement Donation Program (AEDP) must also be enrolled in the Agricultural District program.
An agricultural district provides protection for farmers from nuisance lawsuits, defer expensive development assessments until the land is changed to a non-agriculture use, and offers state scrutiny of local eminent domain acquisitions in certain cases.
Generally, any agricultural land designated as an agricultural district must meet two criteria. First, the land must be devoted exclusively to agricultural production or devoted to and qualified for payments or other compensation under a federal land retirement or conservation program. Second, the land must either be ten acres or more in size or produce an average yearly gross income of at least twenty-five hundred dollars during a three year period. This status needs to be renewed every five years. Updated application forms are also available at Ohio county auditor offices.
The benefits of enrolling in an agricultural district include:
- Nuisance suits protection - Agricultural district status can protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits as long as the farmer is following acceptable best management practices. This can serve as an affirmative defense in frivolous lawsuits for odors and noises associated with agriculture.
- Deferring assessments - Another aspect of development that can impact a farm is the extension of water, sewer and electric lines. These lines are usually paid for by the landowner and often assessed on frontage. A farmer with extensive frontage could face costs large enough to require selling a portion of the farm. To prevent that, the law defers the assessments on agricultural district farmland, excluding the homestead, until the land is changed to another use or withdrawn from the agricultural district.
- Scrutiny of eminent domain acquisitions - If eminent domain is used on 10 acres or 10 percent of the total agricultural district land, whichever is greater, the law calls for a review by the state director of agriculture to determine if an alternative to the proposed project is possible. The result might be a re-evaluation of the project with less or no agricultural land being taken.
A companion law is the current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. The CAUV provides relief on farmland property taxes. Please contact your local county auditor's office for more information about the agricultural district or CAUV programs.
The completed application must be filed with the auditor of the county where the land is located. If the land for which an application has been made is within a municipal corporation limit or if an annexation petition that includes the land has been filed with the Board of County Commissioners under Section 709.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, a copy of the application must also be filed with the Clerk of the legislative body of the municipal corporation.
For additional information refer to the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 929: Agricultural Districts or review the Ohio State University Extension - Fact Sheet - "Agricultural Districts in Ohio."