CFAES Give Today
Farm Office

Ohio State University Extension

CFAES

scenic rivers

Ohio Statehouse with daffodils in foreground
By: Ellen Essman, Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

The Ohio General Assembly is back in Columbus after the March 19th primary election, and committee schedules are already filling up. Given the increased activity in recent weeks, we thought it was a good time to examine what has happened legislatively this year up until this point.

H.B. 64—Eminent Domain. This bill was first introduced by Representatives Kick (R-Loudonville) and Creech (R-West Alexandria) in February of 2023. The bill’s purpose is to make it more difficult for governmental agencies or private entities to take private property through eminent domain. On February 6, 2024, the bill was updated with a Substitute House Bill 64 in the House Civil Justice Committee.

The previous version of the bill excluded recreational trails from the definition of “public use,” meaning that property could not be taken by a government agency for recreational trails. The current version of the bill narrows this language, allowing for a taking for the purpose of creating recreational trails, but not in cases where the property is not adjacent to a public road and where the property’s primary use will be for a recreational trail.

Another substantial change between the versions involves compensation offers from the government entity to the landowner. In the original version of the bill, a government entity would not have been allowed to reduce an offer made to purchase property before proceedings commenced if the reduction was based on hard-to-discover issues with the property. The current version would exclude this provision, restoring an agency’s authority to reduce offers.

Substitute House Bill 64 would also make changes to compensation and awards landowners could receive if the issue goes to court.

H.B. 197—Solar Development. Sponsored by Representatives Hoops (R-Napoleon) and Ray (R-Wadsworth), H.B. 197 would establish a the community solar pilot program and the solar development program. Under the language of the bill, a “community solar facility” is defined as a single facility with at least three subscribers and a nameplate capacity of 10 megawatts or less, or 20 megawatts or less if on a distressed site. Furthermore, the bill would require The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to establish a Community Solar Pilot Program of 250 megawatts on sites in the Appalachian region of the state. The bill would also amend the state competitive retail electric service policy to encourage community solar facilities in the state and allow subscribers to community solar facilities to receive monthly electric bill offsets.

H.B. 324—Motor Fuel. Introduced by Representatives McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) in November of 2023, H.B. 324 passed the House on February 7, 2024 and was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on February 27. 

If passed, the bill would authorize a temporary, nonrefundable income or CAT tax credit of 5 cents per gallon for retail dealers who sell high-ethanol blend motor fuel containing between 15-85% ethanol. The tax credit would be limited to five years or to a total of $10 million, whichever occurs first.

H.B. 327—Employee Verification. H.B. 327, introduced by Representatives Wiggam (R-Wayne County), and Swearingen (R-Huron), had its first committee hearing in House Commerce & Labor on February 13, 2024. The bill would require political subdivisions, private employers employing 75 individuals within the state of Ohio, and nonresidential construction contractors to verify each new employee’s work eligibility through the federal E-verify program. E-Verify is an online program that helps employers verify employees’ eligibility for employment. If the bill were to pass, the employer would be required to keep a record of the verification for the duration of the employee’s employment, or three years, whichever is longer. During testimony on the bill, Representatives Wiggam and Swearingen indicated an interest in possibly lowering the employee threshold, citing Florida’s 25 employee threshold.

H.B. 347—Farming Equipment Taxes. This bill was introduced by Representative Don Jones (R-Freeport) and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in early December of 2023. Since then, the bill has been heard in committee twice, once in January, and once in February, both times without testimony. The bill would change the way farmers claim a tax exemption on certain purchases.

Currently, when an Ohioan engaged in farming, agriculture, horticulture, or floriculture is buying a product for “agricultural use,” they must provide the seller with an exemption certificate. This certificate comes from the Ohio Department of Taxation and relieves the seller of the obligation to collect the sales tax on behalf of the state. However, the Department of Taxation can later determine that the purchase does not qualify for exemption, and then the farmer would be expected to pay the tax.

H.B. 347 would slightly alter this current way of doing things when it comes to the purchase of certain vehicles and trailers. Under the bill, the purchaser could receive an agricultural use exemption for taxes on these vehicles if the purchaser shows the seller copies of the purchaser’s Schedule F—the federal income tax profit of loss from farming form—for three most recent preceding years. Alternatively, a farmer could obtain a certificate from the Department of Taxation verifying that they have filed a Schedule F for three years in lieu of providing the forms directly to the seller. Notably, the bill states that “no other documentation or explanation shall be required by the vendor or the tax commissioner” to prove that the purchase qualifies for the agricultural use exemption.

The following vehicles and trailers would be included under the bill:

  • Trailers, excluding watercraft trailers;
  • Utility vehicles, (vehicles with a bed, principally for the purpose of transporting material or cargo in connection with construction, agricultural, forestry, grounds maintenance, land and garden, materials handling, or similar activities);
  • All-purpose vehicles, (vehicles designed primarily for cross-country travel on land and water, or on multiple types of terrain, but excluding golf carts);
  • Compact tractors (garden tractors, small utility tractors, and riding mowers).

H.B. 364—Seed Labeling; Noxious Weeds. Sponsored by Representatives Dobos (R-Columbus), and Klopfenstein (R-Haviland), H.B. 364 had its first hearing in the House Agriculture Committee on February 6, 2024.  Specifically, the bill would allow the Ohio Prairie Association and other noncommercial entities sharing seeds to distribute milkweed seeds non-commercially to i members, with the intent of promoting habitats for pollinators like monarch butterflies.

The bill would legally define “non-commercial seed sharing” as the distribution or transfer of ownership of seeds with no compensation or remuneration. Also included in the definition are a list of situations that are not considered “non-commercial seed sharing,” including when:

  • The seeds are given as compensation of work or services rendered;
  • The seeds are collected outside of Ohio;
  • The seeds are patented, treated, or contain noxious weed species or invasive plants.

H.B. 364 also includes a definition of “seed library,” which it defines as a non-profit, governmental, or cooperative organization or association to which both of the following apply:

  • It is established for the purpose of facilitating the donation, exchange, preservation, and dissemination of seeds among the seed library’s members or the general public.
  • The use, exchange, transfer, or possession of seeds acquired by or from the non-profit governmental, or cooperative organization or association are obtained free of charge.

The bill would further exempt non-commercial seed sharers and seed libraries from labeling, advertising, handling, and sales restrictions under Ohio law.

To further the goal of promoting pollinators and habitats, H.B. 364 would make changes to the requirements for maintaining toll roads, railroads, or electric railways. Current law requires managers of such thoroughfares to destroy a number of noxious weeds along the roadway or in right of ways. The bill would no longer require the destruction of Russian thistle, Canadian thistle, common thistle, wild lettuce, wild mustard, wild parsnip, ragweed, milkweed, or ironweed. 

H.B. 447—Property Tax. Introduced on March 12, 2024 by Representative Loychik (R-Cortland), H.B. 447 was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee on April 2, 2024. The bill would modify and expand property tax homestead exemptions, gradually reduce school districts’ 20-mill floor for tax levies and modify the formula for determining farmland’s current agricultural use value (CAUV). The change to CAUV would involve the calculation of the overall capitalization rate for agricultural land.  Current law does not establish a minimum rate, but the bill would do so by stating that overall capitalization rate plus additur shall not be less than 10 percent.  Since a higher capitalization rate results in a lower CAUV value and because the current capitalization rate is around 8%, the change would likely lower CAUV values.

S.B. 156—Scenic Rivers. This bill, sponsored by Senators Reineke (R-Tiffin) and Hackett (R-London) passed the Ohio Senate on January 24, 2024, and was referred in the House to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on February 6, 2024. The bill would transfer the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Program from the Division of Parks and Watercraft to the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP) in ODNR. The bill would narrow the scope DNAP’s authority to watercourses designated as wild, scenic, and recreational rivers. Currently, the law is written so that the regulatory agency has authority over areas. “Areas” encompass not just the water, but also the land surrounding rivers. On the other hand, “watercourses” are defined as “substantially natural channel[s] that [are] at least five miles in length with recognized banks and a bottom in which the flow or water occurs.” Thus, agency oversight would be diminished from the river and its surrounding area to just confines of the river itself.

The bill also clarifies that a watercourse designation does not affect private property rights adjacent to a designated river.

Finally, the bill would require DNAP to adopt rules for the use, visitation, and protection of scenic river lands and provide for the establishment of facilities and improvements that are necessary for their visitation, use, restoration, and protection, but do not impair their natural character.

S.B. 226—Agricultural Land. S.B. 226 was introduced by Senator Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) in late February and referred to the Veterans & Public Safety Committee on February 27, 2024. The bill would create the Ohio Property Protection Act, which would include protection of:

  • Agricultural land, defined as “land suitable for use in agriculture,” including the water on the land, airspace above the land, and natural products and products from the land;
  • Any land located within a twenty-five-mile radius of any installation under the jurisdiction of the United States Armed Forces;
  • Any land located within a twenty-five radius of a critical infrastructure facility.

To protect property in the above categories, the bill would make it illegal for the following people and entities to acquire or purchase such property:

  • Those persons and foreign adversaries listed on a registry compiled by the Ohio Secretary of State;
  • A government of a foreign adversary;
  • An individual who is a citizen of a foreign adversary;
  • A business that is headquartered in a foreign adversary;
  • A business that is directly or indirectly owned or controlled by one or more of the above persons and entities; and
  • An agent, fiduciary, or trustee of the above persons and entities.
 Ohio Senate chambers at the Statehouse in Columbus Ohio
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

The holiday season isn't distracting the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee from considering three legislative proposals concerning scenic rivers, small beer brewers, and state agriculture day designations.  On December 12, the committee will hear testimony on all three bills.  Here’s a summary of the proposals.

S.B. 156 - Designation of wild, scenic, and recreational rivers.  Senators Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and Bob Hackett (R-London) introduced this legislation to revise portions of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program that were raising concerns from private property owners.  The committee will hold its fourth hearing on the bill on December 12.  The proposal makes the following changes to the Ohio Scenic River Law:

  • Clarifies that the designation of a Wild, Scenic or Recreational River does not grant authority to oversee private activities on private property or enter private land within the river area to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which administers the program. 
  • States that the agency has management and oversight of lands along a designated river only for those lands the state owns.
  • Requires ODNR to adopt rules to govern the use, visitation, and protection of scenic river lands and to establish facilities and improvements within the areas necessary for visitation, use, restoration, and protection of the lands.
  • Clarifies that certain public entities must obtain approval from the ODNR Director to perform certain construction activities within 1,000 feet of a wild, scenic, or recreational river. 
  • Extends the public comment period following the announcement of intent to designate a new river from 30 days to 60 days.

S.B. 138 – Alcohol Franchise Law exemption for small brewers.  This bill introduced by Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) aims to help small brewers who annually manufacture less than 250,000 barrels (7.75 million gallons) of beer.  The bill exempts small brewers from Ohio’s Alcohol Franchise Law, which requires a beer or wine manufacturer to enter into a franchise agreement with a distributor and lays out requirements for the franchise agreement.  The exemption would allow small brewers to establish agreements with distributors under their own negotiated terms rather than the state-required terms.  S.B. 138 will see its second committee hearing on December 12.

H.B. 162 – Agriculture Appreciation Act.  The House of Representatives passed H.B. 162 in October, and it will have its  second hearing on December 12.  Proposed by Reps. Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) and Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), the bill designates the following federal agriculture days as state days in Ohio:

  • March 21 of each year as “Agriculture day”;
  • The week beginning on the Saturday before the last Saturday of each February through the last Saturday in February as "FFA Week";
  • October 12 of each year as “Farmer’s Day”;
  • The week ending with the second Saturday of March as “4-H Week.”

Keep up with the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee’s activity on the Ohio Senate’s website at https://ohiosenate.gov/committees/agriculture-and-natural-resources

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

Subscribe to RSS - scenic rivers