County now taking applications for farmland protection easements
The Morgan County Farmland Protection Board is accepting applications for farmland preservation through March 1.
Landowners interested in entering the program must file an application at the Morgan County Commission office.
To qualify, landowners must be willing to sign a permanent easement restricting use of their land to agricultural use in exchange for prohibiting commercial or residential development on the property. Landowners are paid for their development rights.
In addition, property taxes for protected land are perpetually levied at an agricultural tax rate without the normal requirement for a certain level of farm revenue. Land use restrictions convey with the property to any future owners.
The program considers the quality of the land and development pressures on a property to rank applicants. The land's soil survey is used to rank and classify the property.
The Morgan County Farmland Protection Board purchases the conservation easements with funds from the county's real estate transfer tax and the Natural Resources Conservation Service Farmland Protection Program of the USDA.
The Morgan County Farmland Protection Board has previously purchased development rights from their landowners, including 194 acres. Nearing completion are two additional landowner contracts on 200 acres. The program began in 2002.