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- Daily Chronicle : DeKalb County Life
The Articles started December 2007.
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Lessons on preserving our farmland
By Barry Schrader.................................March
A former Boone County official brought the answer on how
to preserve DeKalb Countys precious farmland in perpetuity
to the annual meeting of the DeKalb County Farmland Foundation
earlier this month.
But they should have invited
the County Board of Supervisors and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau,
as they need to hear how simple it is. However, there was a very
key player in the room in the person of State Rep. Bob Pritchard
who undoubtedly has the ability to make this happen in DeKalb
County by bringing all the interested groups together for once
and putting a plan in place that will enable individual farm
owners to ensure the preservation of their agricultural land
for 99 years (by their own choice), long after they have left
Everyone talks about how important
it is to save our fertile acreage for agricultural purposes and
how sad it is to see rural subdivisions replacing fields of corn
and soybeans, but when you get right down to talking to the individual
farm owners, they dont have a clue
Fred Genrich speaks at the annual meet of DeKalb County
whether their offspring or grandchildren will sell it to the
highest bidder (usually a corporate speculator or developer)
for the big bucks after the current generations farmer
Well, Fred Genrich, the founding chairman of the Boone County
Agricultural Easement and Protection Commission, had the answers
and they arent too hard to implement if all parties interested
are willing to sit down and work things out. Their county brought
together the Soil and Water District, Conservation District,
a consortium of granges, the Farm Bureau and the County Board
of Supervisors. The DeKalb County Farmland preservation group
has been spinning its wheels for years trying to figure out how
to get along with the Farm Bureau and convince the county board
to do something before we wait too long to save land for farming
and other open space purposes.
Whats in it for the farmer? Well, the federal government
has a program that determines the value of the land and the value
of development rights for the life of the agreement, and will
use that valuation to offset taxes for the owner for the next
15 years. If the children and grandchildren are added into a
Limited Liability Corp. for the farm, they can take advantage
of the same tax breaks.
State law in Illinois already spells out what entities can
hold title to such development rights and since the counties
are excluded, it falls to the Soil and Water District or Conservation
District, according to Genrich. The county states attorney
office also has to be brought into the picture to defend the
development agreement down the road if future generations of
the farm family decide to contest it.
In Boone County, a farmer came to the commission and said
he wanted to assure that his 260 acres would never be anything
but agricultural. They are now finalizing the paperwork to take
ownership of future development rights so he can have his wish
According to the 2002 USDA census, DeKalb County has 359,000
acres in agriculture while neighboring Boone County has only
146,000 acres in farmland. So there is potentially a much greater
opportunity for DeKalb County to preserve significant acreage
for agricultural use than any county nearby.
Anyway, Genrich brought all the documents and necessary paperwork
for this county to get into the development rights business.
John Horn, University of Illinois Extension director for DeKalb
County, was also at the meeting and generously offered to have
all the documents reproduced so Farmland Foundation leaders can
begin the process of forming a task force with all interested
groups involved and/or taking it to the level of the county board.
Now we will see what happens a year from now when the 2010
annual Farmland Foundation meeting is held. Will significant
progress toward a plan be made, will the task be accomplished,
or will we still be spinning our wheels?
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115