The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) Clean Ohio Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP) provides funding to assist in the preservation of farmland throughout Ohio. The program operates through the purchase of easements from landowners who volunteer to maintain their land under agricultural uses in perpetuity. Landowners apply through pre-approved local sponsors to compete for funds at the local level. Each local sponsor receives a portion of the Clean Ohio funds appropriated that funding year to purchase easements from the highest scoring applicant(s) in that area.
The Delaware County Board of Commissioners serves as the Certified Local Sponsor in Delaware County. On behalf of the Commissioners, the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD) coordinates the application process and annual monitoring of easements. Once all pending easements have been finalized, over 1,500 acres in the county will be under preservation through the LAEPP program. The easement program began in 2002 and has preserved more than 466 farms totaling over 76,000 acres in 60 counties as of June 2019. These voluntary, legal agreements among the landowner, the local community, and the state ensure that farmland remains in agricultural use forever. Under an agricultural easement, the land itself stays under private ownership, but the easement prohibits any future non‐agricultural development by landowners.
If you are interested in applying for the program, please take a look at ODA’s website for additional information and minimum guidelines for eligibility. As of 2019, the DSWCD requires all interested applicants to complete a Pre-Application by early February of each funding year. Take a look at 2019’s pre-application and stay tuned for 2020 application information.