noxious weeds

Ohio farm and rural road
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Did you know yellow grove bamboo is on Ohio’s “noxious weeds” list?  We’ve seen an increase in legal questions about bamboo, a plant that can cross property boundaries pretty quickly and create a neighbor dispute.  Weeds often cause neighbor issues, which is why Ohio has a set of noxious weed laws.  The laws aim to resolve problems around yellow grove bamboo and other species designated as “noxious weeds.”

The noxious weeds list

The Ohio legislature designated shatter cane and Russian thistle as noxious weeds years ago, then granted the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) the authority to determine other noxious weeds that could be prohibited in Ohio.  Since that time, the noxious weed list has grown to include 31 weed species.   Two of the species, yellow grove bamboo and grapevines, are noxious weeds only if not managed in a certain way.  The list includes the following:

  • Shatter Cane
  • Kudzu
  • Russian Thistle
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Johnsongrass
  • Field bindweed
  • Wild parsnip
  • Heart-podded hoary cress
  • Canada thistle
  • Hairy whitetop or ballcress
  • Poison hemlock
  • Perennial sowthistle
  • Cressleaf groundsel
  • Russian knapweed
  • Musk thistle
  • Leafy spurge
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Hedge bindweed
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed
  • Serrated tussock
  • Giant Hogweed
  • Columbus grass
  • Apple of Peru
  • Musk thistle
  • Marestail
  • Forage Kochia
  • Kochia
  • Water Hemp
  • Palmer amaranth
  • Yellow Grove Bamboo, when spread from its original premise of planting and not being maintained
  • Grapevines: when growing in groups of 100 or more and not pruned, sprayed, cultivated, or otherwise maintained for 2 consecutive years

Talking about noxious weeds

Since noxious weeds can be harmful to all, the hope is that all landowners will manage noxious weeds effectively and reduce the possibility that the weeds will invade a neighbor’s property.  But for many reasons, that isn’t always the case.  When it appears that noxious weeds on a neighbor’s property are getting out of hand, first try to address the issue through neighbor communications.  A “friendly” discussion about the weeds might reveal helpful information that can reduce the neighbor conflict.  Maybe the neighbor has recently sprayed the weeds or isn’t aware of the weeds. Maybe the neighbor’s tenant is responsible for managing the land. Or, as is sometimes the case, maybe the suspected plants aren’t actually noxious weeds.  Good communication between the neighbors could bring a quick resolution to the situation.

Agronomic help with noxious weeds

Knowledge and management might be the solution to a noxious weeds problem between neighbors. For assistance identifying and managing noxious weeds, check out OSU’s guide on Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio at https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/ohionoxiousweeds/ and refer to helpful articles posted on OSU’s Agronomic Crops Network at https://agcrops.osu.edu.

Help with noxious weeds

Knowledge and management might be the solution to a noxious weeds problem between neighbors. For assistance identifying and managing noxious weeds, check out OSU’s guide on Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio at https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/ohionoxiousweeds/ and refer to helpful articles posted on OSU’s Agronomic Crops Network at https://agcrops.osu.edu.

Legal procedures might be necessary

If communication isn’t helpful or possible, the laws establish procedures for dealing with noxious weeds. Different procedures in the law apply for different weed locations.

  • If the weeds are in the fence row between two properties, a landowner has a right to ask the neighbor to clear the row of weeds within four feet of the line fence.  If the neighbor doesn’t do so within 10 days, the landowner may notify the board of township trustees.  Once notified, the trustees must visit the property and determine whether the fence row should be cleared.  If so, the trustees must hire someone to clean up the fence row.  The costs of the clearing are then assessed on the neighbor’s property taxes.
  • If the weeds are on private land beyond the fence row, a landowner can send written notice of the noxious weeds to the township trustees.  A letter describing the type and location of the weeds, for instance, would serve as written notice.  Once the trustees receive a written notice, they must notify the neighbor to cut or destroy the weeds or alternatively, to show why there is no need for such action.  If the neighbor doesn’t respond to the trustees and take action within 5 days of the notice being given, the trustees must order the weeds to be cut or destroyed.  The cost of destroying the weeds is then assessed on the neighbor’s property taxes.
  • If the neighbor is a railroad, the railroad must cut or destroy noxious weeds along the railway between June 1 and 20, August 1 and 20, and if necessary, September 1 and 20.  If a railroad fails to do so and the township trustees are aware of the problem, the trustees may remove the weeds and recover costs in a civil action against the railroad.  While the law doesn’t state it, a landowner may have to document whether the railroad follows the required cutting schedule and notify the trustees if it does not.
  • If the neighbor is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources or a park owned by the state or a political subdivision, the landowner must provide information about the noxious weeds to the township trustees.  The trustees then notify the county Extension educator, who must meet with a park authority and a representative of the soil and water conservation district within five days to consider ways to deal with the problem.  The Extension educator must report findings and recommendations back to the township trustees, but the law doesn’t require the trustees to take action on the report.  Apparently, the hope is that the problem would be resolved after considering ways to deal with it.

What if the neighbor leases the land?

We mentioned that sometimes a neighbor might not be tending to noxious weeds because it’s actually the responsibility of the neighbor’s tenant under a leasing arrangement, such as a farmland lease or a solar lease.  These types of leases should state which party is responsible for noxious weeds.  Note that the law recognizes the possibility of a leasing situation by requiring the trustee to notify the “owner, lessee, agent, or tenant having charge of the land” when the weeds are on private land and the “owner or tenant” when the weeds are in the fence row.  The “or” in these provisions can be problematic though, as that doesn’t require the township to notify both the neighbor and tenant.  A landowner might need to ask the trustees to communicate with both the neighbor and its tenant so that the parties are both aware and can resolve which is responsible for managing the noxious weeds according to the leasing arrangement. 

For more information about noxious weeds, refer to our law bulletins in the property law library on https://farmoffice.osu.edu.  For assistance identifying and managing noxious weeds, check out OSU’s guide on Identifying Noxious Weeds of Ohio at https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/ohionoxiousweeds/ and refer to helpful articles posted on OSU’s Agronomic Crops Network at https://agcrops.osu.edu.

Posted In: Crop Issues, Property
Tags: noxious weeds, Property, neighbor law
Comments: 0
Vintage cowgirl on a horse with a lasso
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, June 06th, 2022

It's time for another roundup of legal questions we've been receiving in the Agricultural & Resource Law Program.  Our sampling this month includes registering a business, starting a butchery, noxious weed liability in a farm lease situation, promoting local craft beer at a farmers market, herd share agreements, and agritourism's exemption from zoning.  Read on to hear the answers to these questions from across the state.

I want to name my farm business but am not an LLC or corporation.  Do I have to register the name I want to use for the business?

Yes, if your business name won’t be your personal name and even if the business is not a formally organized entity such as an LLC.  You must register the business with the Ohio Secretary of State.  First, make sure the name you want to use is not already registered by another business.  Check the name availability using the Secretary of State’s business name search tool at https://businesssearch.ohiosos.gov/.  If the name is available, register the name with the Secretary of State using the form at https://www.sos.state.oh.us/businesses/filing-forms--fee-schedule/#name.  If there is already a business registered with the name you want to use, you might be able to register a similar name if your proposed name is “distinguishable” from the registered name. The Secretary of State reviews names to make sure they are not already registered and are distinguishable from similar names.  See the Guide to Name Availability page for examples of when names are or are not distinguishable from one another.

I am interested in starting a small butchery.  What resources and information are helpful for beginning this endeavor?

There are legal issues associated with beginning a meat processing operation, and there are also feasibility issues to first consider.  A good resource for initial considerations to make for starting a meat processing business is this toolkit from OSU at https://meatsci.osu.edu/programs/meat-processing-business-toolkit.   A similar resource that targets niche meat marketers is at https://www.nichemeatprocessing.org/get-started/.  On the legal side, requirements vary depending on whether you will only process meat as a custom operator or fully inspected operator, and if you also want to sell the meat through your own meat market.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection has licensing information for different types of processors here:  https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/meat-inspection/home.  If you also want to have a retail meat market, you’ll need a retail food establishment (RFE) license from your local health department.  To help you with that process, it’s likely that your health department will have a food facility plan review resource like this one from the Putnam County Health Department.

Is Ohio’s noxious weeds law enforceable against the tenant operator of my farm, or just against me as the landowner?

Ohio’s noxious weed law states that the township trustees, upon receiving written information that noxious weeds are on land in their township, must notify the “owner, lessee, agent, or tenant having charge of the land.”  This language means that the trustees are to notify a tenant operator if the operator is the one who is in charge of the land where the noxious weeds exist.  The law then requires the notified party –which should be the tenant operator—to cut or destroy the noxious weeds within five days or show why there is no need to do so.  The concern with a rental situation like yours is that if the tenant does not destroy the weeds in five days, the law requires the township to hire someone to do so and assess the costs of removal as a lien on the land.  This puts you as the landowner at risk of financial responsibility for the lien and would require you to seek recourse against the tenant operator if you want to recover those costs.  Another option is to take care of removing the noxious weeds yourself, but that could possibly expose you to a claim of crop damages from the tenant operator.  A written farm lease can address this situation by clearing shifting the responsibility for noxious weeds in the crop to the tenant operator and stating how to deal with crop damages if the landowner must step in and destroy the noxious weeds.

Can we promote local craft beers at our farmers market?

Ohio established a new “F-11” permit in H.B. 674 last year.  The F-11 is a temporary permit that allows a qualifying non-profit organization to organize and conduct an event that introduces, showcases, or promotes Ohio craft beers that are sold at the event. There are restrictions on how long the event can last, how much beer can be sold, who can participate in the event, and requirements that food must also be sold at the event. The permit is $60 per day for up to 3 days.  Learn more about the permit on the Department of Commerce website at  https://com.ohio.gov/divisions-and-programs/liquor-control/new-permit-info/guides-and-resources/permit-class-types.

Can a goat herdsman legally provide goat milk through a herd share agreement program? 

Herd share agreements raise the raw milk controversy and whether it’s legal or safe to sell or consume raw milk.  Ohio statutory law does clearly prohibit the sales of raw milk to an “ultimate consumer” in ORC 971.04, on the basis that raw milk poses a food safety risk to consumers.  But the law does not prohibit animal owners from consuming raw milk from their own animals.  A herd share agreement sells ownership in an animal, rather than selling the raw milk from the animal.  Under the agreement, a person who pays the producer for a share of ownership in the animal may take their share of milk from the animal.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture challenged the use of herd share agreements as illegal in the 2006 case of Schitmeyer v. ODA, but the court did not uphold the ODA’s attempt to revoke the license of the dairy that was using herd share agreements.  As a result, it appears that the herd share agreement approach for raw milk sales is currently legally acceptable.  But many still claim that raw milk consumption is risky because the lack of pasteurization can allow harmful bacteria to exist in the milk. 

Can the township prohibit me from having a farm animal petting zoo on my hay farm?

It depends whether you qualify for the “agritourism exemption” granted in Ohio law.  The agritourism exemption states that a county or township can’t use its zoning authority to prohibit “agritourism,” although it may have same zoning regulations that affect agritourism buildings, parking lots, and access to and from the property.  “Agritourism” is an agriculturally related entertainment, recreational, cultural, educational or historical activity that takes place on a working farm where a certain amount of commercial agricultural production is also taking place. If you have more than ten acres in commercial production, like growing and selling your alfalfa, or you have less than ten acres but averaged more than $2,500 in gross sales from your alfalfa, you qualify under the agritourism exemption and the township zoning authorities cannot prohibit you from having your petting zoo.  However, any zoning regulations the township has for ingress and egress on your property, buildings used primarily for your petting zoo, or necessary parking areas would apply to your petting zoo activity. If you don't qualify as "agritourism," the township zoning regulations could apply to the petting zoo activity, and you must determine whether a petting zoo is a permitted use according to your zoning district, which could depend upon whether or not you want to operate the petting zoo as a commercial business.

 

 

 

 

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

I recall sharing my concern with a professor when I was in law school:  how will I ever know all the answers to legal questions?  No worries, he said.  You can’t know the answer to every legal question, but you do need to know how to find the answers.  I think of that advice often as legal questions come across my desk.   

We’ve had a steady stream of them this summer, and the questions provide a snapshot of what’s going on around the state.  Here’s a sampling of questions we’ve received recently, complete with our answers—some we knew and some we had to find.

What do you know about the $500 million to be set aside at USDA for meat processors—who will administer it and what is the timeline?  USDA published a notice on July 16, 2021 titled “Investments and Opportunities for Meat and Poultry Processing Infrastructure” seeking input on how to allocate the funds.  The notice solicits comments on how to address challenges and increase competition in meat and poultry processing through the $500 million in infrastructure and other investments.  USDA is looking at current programs, combinations of programs, and potential programs that can leverage the funds to expand and diversify meat and poultry processing capacity and make the supply chain more resilient.  A review of the questions USDA raised in the notice gives a good indication of the types of programs we might see, and administration of the programs could be at both the federal and state levels. The comments are due by August 30, 2021 and USDA will review them before moving forward.  It will be at least several months before decisions are made and the funds are available.

If I enroll my land in the Wetlands Reserve Program, does the land still qualify for Current Agricultural Use Valuation tax treatment?  Yes.  Ohio’s CAUV law allows eligible land to be assessed as agricultural land for property taxation under the CAUV formula.  Eligible land is “land devoted exclusively to agricultural use.”  The definition of that term is important, and the relevant section that places wetlands and other conservation practices within that definition is ORC 5713.30(A)(1(c), which states that "land devoted exclusively to agricultural use" include tracts, lots, or parcels of land with at least ten acres which “were devoted to and qualified for payments or other compensation under a land retirement or conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government.”  According to court cases in Ohio, wetlands enrolled in federal conservation programs fit within this term and should qualify for CAUV treatment, even wetlands used as a mitigation bank.  An Ohio Attorney General opinion disagrees that a wetlands mitigation bank is a government conservation program, but that is an advisory rather than binding opinion and a mitigation bank is not the same as the federal Wetlands Reserve Program.

Are there any special requirements for a cottage food producer for selling “gluten free” or “vegan” products?   Yes.  You need to ensure that you meet federal regulations to use “gluten free” terminology on your cottage food label.  There isn’t a label review and approval process for using the language, though, as it’s “self-policing.” You must be sure that your product does not include any gluten containing ingredients.  And because low levels of gluten could result from cross contamination in your kitchen, your product must be below the tolerance level of 20 ppm of gluten.  There isn’t a testing requirement to prove that you’re under 20 ppm before you sell it, but if for some reason someone challenged your product or ODA randomly sampled it, it must meet the 20 ppm standard.  You can have your food lab tested if you want to have that assurance.  Otherwise, you should carefully manage your kitchen to reduce cross contamination.  The FDA provides the gluten free labeling rule on its website  and has a helpful FAQ page also.  FDA has said it will be updating the gluten free rule, but I haven’t seen anything new yet.

Vegan labeling is a lesser regulatory concern.  If you use that or related terms like “animal free” on your product, federal law requires that you be “truthful and not misleading” to the consumer.  There isn’t a federal or state definition of “vegan” to help with that determination, but the agencies explain the term basically as not containing any animal products.  Your ingredient list should confirm any vegan or animal free claims on the product.

Are there regulations pertaining to online sales of perennial plants?  Yes. The seller must obtain a nursery license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  The type of license will depend on their type of sales.  A phytosanitary certificate might also be required by the importing states where their sales will take place; ODA also handles those certificates.  Additionally, the seller will need to obtain a vendor’s license from the Department of Taxation to collect and submit sales tax on the plant sales.

Does a “Scenic River” designation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources allow the agency to take my property that’s along the river?  No.  The language in the Scenic Rivers statute is misleading, as it states that “the area shall include lands adjacent to the watercourse in sufficient width to preserve, protect, and develop the natural character of the watercourse, but shall not include any lands more than one thousand feet from the normal waterlines of the watercourse unless an additional width is necessary to preserve water conservation, scenic, fish, wildlife, historic, or outdoor recreation values.”  Without reading the entire statute, it does sound as though ODNR could be laying some type of claim to up to 1,000 feet of the lands adjacent to the river.  However, further along in the statute is this language that prohibits the agency from having any authority over the private land:  “Declaration by the director that an area is a wild, scenic, or recreational river area does not authorize the director or any governmental agency or political subdivision to restrict the use of land by the owner thereof or any person acting under the landowner's authority or to enter upon the land and does not expand or abridge the regulatory authority of any governmental agency or political subdivision over the area.”  The designation is a declaration, and not a land claim, transfer of rights, or a taking.  Additionally, my further research indicates that ODNR has never used eminent domain to take private property along a scenic river, nor does it have funding allocated from the legislature to purchase scenic river lands.

Do I need a license to make and sell egg noodles from the farm?  Yes.  Egg noodles don’t fall under Ohio’s Cottage Food Law, which allows you to make and sell certain low-risk “cottage foods” with little regulation or licensing requirements.  Instead, producing egg noodles for sale from a home kitchen requires a home bakery registration.  You obtain the registration from the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division.  It requires that you submit a request for inspection form, pass an inspection of the home, and submit a $10 fee.  The inspection will confirm that walls, ceilings and floors are clean, easily cleanable and in good repair; the kitchen does not have carpeted floors; there are no pets or pests in the home; the kitchen, equipment and utensils are maintained in a sanitary condition; the kitchen has a mechanical refrigerator capable of maintaining 45 degrees and equipped with a thermometer; if the home has a private well, proof of a well test completed within the past year showing a negative test result for coliform bacteria; the food label meets labeling requirements.

Is raising and training dogs considered “animal husbandry” for purposes of d the agricultural exemption from township zoning authority?   Yes. The Ohio Supreme Court held in Harris v. Rootstown Twp. that “the raising and care of dogs constitutes animal husbandry and is included in the term “agriculture” within the meaning of R.C. 519.01.”  This means that the agricultural exemption in Ohio Revised Code 519.21 applies to raising and caring for dogs, and township zoning can’t prohibit the use of any lot over five acres for those purposes.  The township would have limited regulatory authority over dog raising on smaller lots in some situations, though.  There is often confusion among townships over how to classify dogs, and that may be because they differ from what we typically think of as “farm animals.”  But the Rootstown Twp. case, along with many other appellate level cases in Ohio, confirm that dogs are to be treated the same as “livestock” for purposes of the agricultural exemption from zoning.  

Can both landowners be assessed half the cost of removal of noxious weeds that are growing in a partition fence?  Maybe.  The Ohio line fence law does allow a township to step in and clear the fence row of noxious weeds, brush, briers and similar vegetation if a complaint is filed by one landowner against an adjacent landowner who refuses to clear the weeds.  The costs for doing so are assessed back on the refusing landowner whose fence row was cleared.  If the noxious weeds arise from both sides of the fence, are growing in the fence, and must be cleared from both sides of the fence, the township trustees would have the authority to assess the costs of removal back on both landowners. I’ve never heard of that happening, but it’s certainly one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations.

Logos

Poison hemlock in field
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Poison hemlock and Canada thistle are making unwelcome appearances across Ohio, and that raises the need to talk about Ohio’s noxious weeds law.  The law provides mechanisms for dealing with noxious weeds—those weeds that can cause harm to humans, animals, and ecosystems.  Location matters when we talk about noxious weeds.  That’s because Ohio law provides different procedures for dealing with noxious weeds depending upon where we find the weeds.  The law addresses the weeds on Ohio's noxious weeds list in these four locations:

  1. Along roadways and railroads
  2. Along partition fence rows
  3. On private land beyond the fence row
  4. On park lands

Along roadways and railroads.  The first window just closed for mandatory mowing of noxious weeds along county and township roads.  Ohio law requires counties, townships, and municipalities to destroy all noxious weeds, brush, briers, burrs, and vines growing along roads and streets.  There are two mandated time windows for doing so:  between June 1 and 20 and between August 1 and 20.  If necessary, a cutting must also occur between September 1 and 20, or at any other time when necessary to prevent or eliminate a safety hazard.  Railroad and toll road operators have the same legal duty, and if they fail to do so, a township may cause the removal and bring a civil action to recover for removal costs.

Along partition fence rows.  Landowners in unincorporated areas of the state have a duty to cut or destroy noxious weeds and brush within four feet of a partition fence, and the law allows a neighbor to request a clearing of the fence row if a landowner hasn’t done so.  If a landowner doesn’t clear the fence row within ten days of receiving a request to clear from the neighbor, the neighbor may present a complaint to the township trustees.  The trustees must visit the property and determine whether there is a need to remove noxious weeds and if so, may order the removal and charge removal costs against the landowner’s property tax bill.  

On private land beyond the fence row.  A written notice to the township trustees that noxious weeds are growing on private land beyond the fence row will trigger another township trustee process.  The trustees must notify the landowner to destroy the weeds or show why there is no reason to do so.  If the landowner doesn’t comply within five days of receiving the notice, the trustees may arrange for destruction of the weeds.  The township may assess the costs against the landowner’s property tax bill.

On park lands.  If the township receives notice that noxious weeds are growing on park land or land owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the trustees must notify the OSU Extension Educator in the county.  Within five days, the Educator must meet with a representative of the ODNR or park land, consider ways to deal with the noxious weed issue, and share findings and recommendations with the trustees.

Even with noxious laws in place, we recommend talking before taking legal action.   If you’re worried about a noxious weed problem in your area, have a talk with the responsible party first.  Maybe the party isn’t aware of the noxious weeds, will take steps to address the problem, or has already done so.  But if talking doesn’t work, Ohio law offers a way to ensure removal of the noxious weeds before they become a bigger problem.

We explain the noxious weed laws in more detail in our law bulletin, Ohio’s Noxious Weed Laws.  We’ve also recently illustrated the procedures in a new law bulletin, Legal Procedures for Dealing with Noxious Weeds in Ohio’s Rural Areas.  Also see the OSU Agronomy Team’s recent article about poison hemlock in the latest edition of C.O.R.N, available through this link.

By: Ellen Essman, Wednesday, September 09th, 2020

Despite the fact that “pumpkin spice” everything is back in stores, it is still summer, and if you’re anything like me, you’re still dealing with weeds. In fact, we have been receiving many questions about noxious weeds lately.  This blog post is meant to be a refresher about what you should do if noxious weeds sprout up on your property.

What are noxious weeds?

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is in charge of designating “prohibited noxious weeds.”  The list may change from time to time, but currently, noxious weeds include:

  • Shatter cane (Sorghum bicolor)
  •  Russian thistle (Salsola Kali var. tenuifolia).
  • Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense ).
  •  Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).
  • Grapevines (Vitis spp.), when growing in groups of one hundred or more and not pruned, sprayed, cultivated, or otherwise maintained for two consecutive years.
  • Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense ).
  • Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).
  •  Cressleaf groundsel (Senecio glabellus).
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans).
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).
  • Mile-A-Minute Weed (Polygonum perfoliatum).
  • Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).
  • Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes).
  • Marestail (Conyza canadensis)
  • Kochia (Bassia scoparia).
  • Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri).
  • Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata).
  • Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).
  • Yellow Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys aureasculata), when the plant has spread from its original premise of planting and is not being maintained.
  • Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).
  • Heart-podded hoary cress (Lepidium draba sub. draba).
  • Hairy whitetop or ballcress Lepidium appelianum).
  • Perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis).
  • Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens).
  • Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula).
  • Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium).
  • Serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma).
  • Columbus grass (Sorghum x almum).
  • Musk thistle (Carduus nutans).
  • Forage Kochia (Bassia prostrata).
  • Water Hemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus).

The list of noxious weeds can be found in the Ohio Administrative Code section 901:5-37-01. In addition to this list, Ohio State has a guidebook that will help you identify noxious weeds in Ohio, which is available here.  It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the weeds in the book, so you can be on the lookout for noxious weeds on your property.

When am I responsible for noxious weeds?

The Ohio Revised Code addresses noxious weeds in different parts of the code. When it comes to noxious weeds on the property of private individuals, there are two scenarios that may apply: noxious weeds on private property, and noxious weeds in line fence rows.  

 Noxious weeds on your property

If your property is located outside of a municipality, a neighbor or another member of the public can inform the township trustees in writing that there are noxious weeds on your property. If this happens, the township trustees must then turn around and notify you about the existence of noxious weeds. After receiving a letter from the trustees, you must either destroy the weeds or show the township trustees why there is no need for doing so. If you do not take one of these actions within five days of the trustees’ notice, the township trustees must cause the weeds to be cut or destroyed, and the county auditor will assess the costs for destroying the weeds against your real property taxes.  If your land is in a municipality, similar laws apply, but you would be dealing with the legislative authority, like the city council, instead of township trustees.

What if you rent out your land out to be farmed or otherwise?  Are you responsible for noxious weeds on your property in that situation?  The answer is probably.  The law states that the board of township trustees “shall notify the owner, lessee, agent, or tenant having charge of the land” that they have received information about noxious weeds on the property (emphasis added).  Furthermore, the law says that the “person notified” shall cut or destroy the weeds (or have them cut or destroyed).  In all likelihood, if you own the land, you are going to be the person who is notified by the trustees about the presence of weeds.  If you rent out your property to be farmed or otherwise, you may want to include who is responsible for noxious weeds in the language of the lease.    

Noxious weeds in the fence row

The “line fence law” or “partition fence law” in Ohio requires landowners in unincorporated areas to cut all noxious weeds, brush, briers and thistles within four feet and in the corners of a line fence. A line fence (or partition fence) is a fence that is on the boundary line between two properties. If you fail to keep your side of the fence row clear of noxious weeds and other vegetation, Ohio law provides a route for adjacent landowners concerned about the weeds. First, an adjacent landowner must request that you clear the fence row of weeds and must allow you ten days to do so. If the weeds still remain after ten days, the complaining landowner may notify the township trustees of the situation. Then, the township trustees must view the property and determine whether there is sufficient reason to remove weeds and vegetation from the fence row. If they determine that the weeds should be removed, the township trustees may hire someone to clear the fence row.  Once again, if this occurs, the county auditor will assess the costs of destruction on your property taxes. 

Being aware of noxious weeds is key. 

As a landowner, it is really important for you to keep an eye out for noxious weeds on your property.  If you keep on top of the weeds, cutting them or otherwise destroying them as they grow, it will certainly make your life a lot easier. You will avoid awkward conversations with neighbors, letters from your township trustees, and extra charges on your property taxes. Additionally, you will help to prevent the harm that noxious weeds may cause to crops, livestock, and ecosystems in general.

 To learn more about Ohio’s noxious weed laws, you can access our law bulletin on the subject here.  While the bulletin addresses the responsibilities of landowners, it also goes beyond the scope of this blog post, addressing weeds on roadways, railroads, and public lands, as well as how to respond if your neighbor has noxious weeds on their property.  Additionally, the bulletin has a helpful section of “frequently asked questions” regarding noxious weeds. 

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