Hancock County Auditor 
Charity A. Rauschenberg, CPA

Agricultural District Information

AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS

INFORMATION FOR HANCOCK COUNTY RESIDENTS

There is a law that can have important benefits for Ohio farmers and can help to assure proper use of the State’s most important resource – LAND. The law is Senate Bill 78. The Farmland Preservation Act passed into law in 1982. The basis of Senate Bill 78 and Chapter 929 of the Ohio Revised Code (Agricultural Districts) is to remove outside pressures that can cause farmland to be converted to other uses.

The following brief summary about the Farmland Preservation Act provides some basic information about this important protection to your farmland.

HOW DID THIS PROGRAM COME ABOUT?

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation was instrumental in the construction of this law which can help landowners deal with water and sewer assessments, nuisance lawsuits and the powers of eminent domain. The Farm Bureau worked with leading legislators and in 1982, the Ohio General Assembly forged this new law.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO THE LANDOWNER?

The law permits an owner of farmland to create an Agricultural District, provided certain requirements are met.

Owners of land in an Agricultural District receive:

  1. A deferment of any new assessments for such improvements as water or sewer systems as long as the land continues to be farmed;
  2. Legal protection for any generally accepted agricultural practice in the event of a nuisance lawsuit filed against the farming operation;
  3. Limited protection against the use of eminent domain power of government. (A governmental entity may only appropriate 10% or 10 acres of land within an Agricultural District.)

An Agricultural District also protects farm market operators from certain zoning regulations and requires the power siting commission to consider the impact of new power facilities on land in an Agricultural District.

WHAT ARE THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS TO FORM AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

  1. The land must be devoted exclusively to agriculture or to an improved federal government land retirement or conservation program.
  2. The land must be composed of tracts, lots, or parcels that total not less than ten (10) acres or, if less than ten acres, have an average annual gross income of $2,500 from agricultural production during the previous three years, or can provide evidence that this level of income will be achieved at the time of application.

WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO FORM AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

  1. Any owner of land used in agricultural production, who meets the necessary qualifications, can place land in any agricultural district by filing an application with the Hancock County Auditor’s Office.
  2. If the land is located within the boundaries of a municipal corporation, an additional application must be made to the city or village.

WHAT IS THE TIME LIMIT FOR FILING?

The initial application to place land in an Agricultural District may be made anytime. There is no cost or fee for filing the application.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE APPROVAL OF AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

  1. In the case of land outside a municipality, the County Auditor will determine if the land meets the minimum requirements and will provide written notice to the landowner.
  2. In the case of land within municipal boundaries, the city or village must approve, modify, or reject the application within thirty (30) days of a public hearing. If the municipality fails to take any action, the application is approved. Modifications may include the limiting of assessment benefits, nuisance protection, and duration of district, but is not necessarily limited to those areas.

If the land becomes annexed by a municipality after it is already in the program, then the municipality does not have the power to review the application providing the land was not sold or transferred to another person (except within the immediate family), the owner that established the district did not sign the annexation petition, and the owner did not vote in favor of annexation.

WHAT IS THE TERM OF AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

If approved, the Agricultural District will be in effect for five (5) years from the date of application. Renewal may be made anytime after the first Monday of January during the fifth year. If not renewed by the first Monday of March of the fifth year, landowners will be notified that failure to renew by the first Monday in April will cause the land to be removed from the Agricultural District. Converting the land to another use after the five year period carries no penalty and there is no obligation to sign up again.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

It is important that owners considering placing their land in an Agricultural District realize that they are making a commitment for five (5) years and that conversion of the land to other than agricultural use prior to the end of that period carries an expensive penalty.

If the land is also included in the CAUV program, early withdrawal from an Agricultural District requires collection of the amount of taxes saved for up to three years and a penalty based on the current average bank prime rate of that tax savings amount.

If the land was not included in the tax savings program, then conversion of the land from agricultural use will subject the owner to a penalty based on the current average bank prime rate of that tax savings amount, if it had been in such a program for the period of time the land was included in an Agricultural District.

Early withdrawal will also require that assessments, deferred during the period land was included in an Agricultural District, are immediately collectible.

WHAT IF LAND IS TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER OWNER DURING THE TERM OF AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?

Land transferred to a new owner shall continue in an Agricultural District if the new owner advises the Auditor in writing that it is the intent to continue to use the land for agricultural purposes. Failure to do so is considered a withdrawal and would be subject to the penalties.

IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP OF THE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT TO OTHER FARM PROGRAMS?

The qualifications for the formation of an Agricultural District are the same as those for the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) program in real estate taxation. The same land can be in either program or both, but making an application for one program does not automatically include the landowner in the other. A separate application is needed for each program.

HOW DOES AN AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT EFFECT EMINENT DOMAIN?

If a public entity anticipates using eminent domain powers for more than 10 acres, or 10 percent of the Agricultural District, additional review procedures would be required.

Click here for a printable AG application and instructions (Adobe Acrobat)