Farmland preservation law sought

By Michele C. Hladik Record-Courier Capital Bureau Published:

When the Ohio Farmland Preservation Task Force released its

report in June,

state lawmakers assured they would take action. The fruit of

their labor is

expected to be introduced into the state legislature next

week.[ep]

The majority of the report is covered in a bill sponsored by

State Rep. Sean

Logan, D-Lisbon, and Rep. Gene Krebs, R-Camden.[ep]

"This bill embodies the recommendations of the Farmland

Preservation Task

Force," Logan said. "We've taken the task force report and put it

into bill

form."[ep]

Logan said he believes the portion of the bill involving

county wide land use

plans will receive the most support.[ep]

"The overall emphasis of the bill is land use management and

planning," Logan

said.[ep]

He added that it was designed to encourage local governments

to adopt land use

plans, but it does not require the plans, but offers incentives

for those who

use them.[ep]

"It's very much a bottom up approach to farmland

preservation," Logan said.[ep]

Logan said the bill will also show that farmland

preservation and the decline

of Ohio cities are linked and one issue can't be addressed

without addressing

the other as well.[ep]

"We're not against converting land," Logan said. " We just

want it to be done

with a more methodical approach. We want smart growth."[ep]

Logan said he has heard from both supporters and opposers,

but believes there

is enough support for the bill to get it approved in both the

Ohio House of

Representatives and the Ohio Senate before the end of the

legislative session.[ep]

"It's a comprehensive bill from what we know," said Karl

Gebhardt, executive

director of the Office of Farmland Preservation, which was

created as a result

of the task force report.[ep]

He said he has not seen the bill and does not know if his

office will support

the bill.[ep]

Kit Fogle, legislative director of the Ohio Farmers Union,

said his group has not decided if it will lend its support to the

bill. He said that while there are many things in the proposed

legislation that his group can support there are also problem

areas.[ep]

He said he would like to see more local control and less of

the state controls

found in the bill.[ep]

"We don't want to be too restrictive about what farmers can

do with their

land," Fogle said.[ep]

Fogle said his group would also like to see the many issues

addressed in

several separate bills rather than the one large bill expected to

be

introduced Tuesday.[ep]

"It's a very complex issue," he said. "It's not an easy

subject to understand

and come up with a solution. When you break it down it makes it

easier to understand. In the committee process there will be a

lot of questions."[ep]

He said farmers union will decide in January if it plans to

support the whole

bill or just pieces of it. The group likes the incentive-based

portions of the bill like the

county land use plans.[ep]

Logan said there was some discussion about breaking the bill

into several

smaller bills, but believes it was better to create one massive

bill because

all of the issues are related.[ep]

He said the larger bill will be more manageable and

shouldn't get tied up in

committee meetings once it is properly explained.[ep]

A second bill involves conservation easements and is

expected to be

introduced by Sen. Grace Drake, R-Solon, later next week.[ep]

"Our bill is just an easement bill," said Ted Berry,

legislative aide to

Drake. "It's very simple. Wayne and Medina counties are ready to

do this."[ep]

The bill allows local governments to purchase or lease

easements to land if

the land owner agrees. The land would then remain open for

farming for at least 30 years.[ep]

Berry said that if the land is no longer functional for

farmland use after 30

years, the owner would be able to negotiate to have the easement

lifted.[ep]

"It allows the property owners to make the decisions

(concerning the land),"

Berry said. "Initially, I don't think you are going to see a lot

of land owners using the

easements."[ep]

He said that as communities become more and more concerned

with farmland

preservation, the use of easements could increase.[ep]

Fogle said his group

also supports the proposed senate bill.[ep]

"It's voluntary," Fogle said. "We like that about it."[ep]

But he added that he does see one potential problem with the

conservation easements bill. He said local communities may have a hard

time coming up with the money to purchase the easements.[ep]

"Money is going to be the big object," Fogle said. "I don't

see (the bill) saving a lot of farmland, but every little bit helps."[ep]

Fogle said he thinks an even bigger issue than preserving

farmland is in preserving farmers by making farming more profitable. He said

that is the best way to preserve family farms. He said neither bill addresses

that issue.[ep]

"If a farmer is making a profit at farming, he won't have to

sell his land," Fogle said.

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