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Commissioners still considering ag preservation program

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Delaware County commissioners are still considering whether to become a sponsor for an agricultural easement purchase program.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation program allow land owners to apply to sell an agricultural easement on their land to the department to ensure the property will be used for agricultural purposes well into the future.

“I could go either way. There’s pluses and minuses,” Commissioner Ken O’Brien said.

While O’Brien said he believes that property owners should be able to do what they wish with their land, he also said he is concerned the program could stall development and make it difficult to get the county’s sewer plants to full capacity.

“What you haven’t heard from is the developers on the other side of them,” he said.

Commissioner Gary Merrell said he does not believe the program will be widely used, but encouraged county residents to provide him with their opinions on the matter.

“If there is anyone in the farm community that has an opinion, I would love to hear it in the next few days,” he said.

Five Delaware County farms have been protected, although all of the land was donated, and not sponsored for the program by the county.

The program is designed to preserve land for agricultural use. From 1950 to 2000 – the year in which the program was established – Ohio lost 6.9 million acres of farmland.

Since its inception, the state has spent about $36 million, with another $38 million coming from the federal government, to purchase agricultural easements. Landowners have also donated about $88 million in easement value.

The state has made $7 million available for the program in 2016.

Since the program began, the state has purchased 320 easements, protecting about 55,000 of the 164,814 acres of land currently used for agricultural purposes.

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