Ohio has some protection for farm owners that could help prevent problems like hog farms in North Carolina have been running into. One advantage of enrolling your property in the Agricultural District classification is it allows your property to have certain rights for agricultural production that could protect you from nuisance law suits. This is separate from the CAUV tax designation but the requirements to enroll are the same so it can be confusing. The following information is from the county and provides much more detail.
From the Licking County Auditor Website
What is an Agricultural District?
Agricultural Districts are a tool used to protect the farmers and the farming industry through protection from nuisance lawsuits, deferring expensive development assessments until the land is changed to a non-agriculture use, and by offering state scrutiny of local eminent domain acquisitions in certain cases. Landowners can qualify for an agricultural district with 10 or more acres of land or less than 10 acres that generates an average of at least $2,500 annually for three years prior to application. This status needs to be renewed every five years.
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on agricultural district farmland, excluding the homestead, until the land is changed to a non- agricultural use or withdrawn from the agricultural district.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.
Land devoted to agricultural use includes parcels or portions of parcels that are used for conservation practices if it comprises 25% or less of the total land qualifying for CAUV. Conservation practices are used to abate soil erosion required in the management of the farm and include grass waterways, terraces, filter strips, field borders, windbreaks, riparian buffers, wetlands, ponds and cover crops for that purpose.
What Land Qualifies for Inclusion in an Agricultural District?
Land must be composed of tracts, lots, or parcels that are at least 10 acres in size, or have generated an average gross income of at least $2,500 during the past three years. Or, the owner can present evidence of an anticipated gross income of $2,500 (ORC 929.02). The land must be in agricultural production as defined in the Ohio Revised Code. (ORC 929.01[A]). The land also qualifies if it is enrolled in a federal government land retirement or conservation program during the year of application and for at least three years prior to the year of application. It is possible for a farmer to place all parcels, or a portion of the parcels of the farmland into an agricultural district.
What is the Difference Between an Agricultural District and Current Agriculture Use Value?
The Current Agriculture Use Value (CAUV) program allows farmland to be assessed at an agricultural value for real estate tax purposes rather than a “highest and best use” valuation. Participation in either program is independent, though the criteria to participate in either program are the same. Keeping the same criteria for both programs has advantages but has also caused confusion for some landowners, as they may believe they are in both programs when they are in only one.
What if I live within a municipal corporation limit?
The application for Agricultural District must be filed with the Clerk of the municipal legislative body. Once approved, the application is then forwarded to the Licking County Auditor’s Office.
When is the deadline?
Initial applications may be filed at any time. Renewal applications (every 5 years) are due by the first Monday in March of the year in which the application expires. Failure to submit a renewal application by the deadline will result in removed from the Agricultural District. If there are any assessments currently being deferred on the property, that assessment will become due.
How to Apply:
Once it has been determined that your land meets the minimum requirements, applications may be filed at the Licking County Auditor’s office. There is no fee to apply or to renew applications.
For questions or additional information contact:
Kim Cortright Licking County Auditor’s Office (740) 670-5050