(Posted April 8, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Interest in the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program is up this year.
Funded totally by state dollars, the program compensates farm owners who commit their land permanently to agriculture use. The purpose is to protect farmland from development.
Each year, the Clean Ohio Fund allocates money to Ohio counties to purchase agriculture easements for farmland preservation. Farm owners interested in the program participate in a competitive application process.
This year, Madison County received $618,000 to spend on easements. Thirteen farms applied, a significant increase in applications over previous years. Two will receive funding.
Julia Cumming, local program coordinator, credits the increase to word of mouth.
“People are talking about it when they see each other at meetings or other functions. I think it’s more interesting to farmers if they hear about it from someone they know,” she said.
The two landowners at the top of the 2016 funding list are Kevin Summers, who owns 154.63 acres of farmland along Selsor Moon Road in Stokes Township and James Phillipi, who owns 333.66 acres along Sparling Road in West Jefferson.
Summers is a first-time applicant to the program. Cumming said his application earned more points than others in part because the land includes 40 acres of wildlife habitat, it’s near a village (South Solon), the creek on the land is protected by buffer strips, and Summers has a conservation plan in place.
The state’s Farmland Preservation Advisory Board will meet in June to review Madison County’s recommendations. If they are approved, Summers will receive the maximum amount of $2,000 per acre for a total of $309,269. Phillipi will receive the balance of the county’s allocation, $309,643, which is $928 per acre.
Other applicants for the 2016 funding included Eades Family Farms (Old Xenia Road, London), Phillipi LLC (Gregg Road, West Jefferson), Phillipi Revocable Trust (Gregg Road, West Jefferson), Nancy and William Robinson (U.S. Route 40, London), Marian Fisher (three different acreages on State Route 38, London), James Phillipi II (Sparling Road, West Jefferson), Corey Phillipi (Glade Run and Sparling roads, West Jefferson), and Dale Sheridan (State Route 42, London). James Phillipi also applied for acreage on State Route 142, West Jefferson.
The county purchased agriculture easements on three farms in 2014 and two farms in 2015.