COLUMBUS — Legislation that would provide tax subsidies for the transfer of farm property and other farm assets from established farmers to beginner farmers in Ohio was expanded in committee to include transfers between family members, which would have been prohibited under the original language.
The adjustment was made because the farming industry operates differently than most other businesses in the sense that it is more common to pass a farm down to one’s children, Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, said during the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee hearing on Tuesday. Patterson sits on the committee and is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“This is a way that we can directly help this key segment of Ohio’s number one industry in an experimental fashion to see how this can help incentivize that changing of the guard, if you will, on our farms that are so important to us,” Patterson said before the vote.
Along with that change, the substitute bill for HB183 also added a $10 million cap and a five-year sunset provision to ensure that the legislation is closely monitored and uses state resources properly, Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Lakeview, said in the hearing. Manchester is also sponsoring the legislation.
The committee unanimously approved the substitute bill.
To be eligible for the tax subsidies under the legislation, an established farmer would have to sell or rent to a farmer with 10 years or less experience who participates in a financial management program. This would include the sale or rental of land, livestock, facilities or equipment.
Trish Cunningham, who testified on behalf of the Ohio Soybean Association, told the committee that the average farming age in Ohio, and across the country, keeps rising. Currently, the average age in Ohio is 55.8 because the costs associated with starting in the industry is very high.
The total budget cost of a person who is starting off could be between $350 and $550 per acre, depending on the location, the quality of the land and the type of crop a person is farming. This could become a multi-million dollar investment.
Ryan Conklin, a lawyer for Wright & Moore Law Co. LPA, told the committee that a person does not usually transfer a farm until becoming very elderly or dying because there are few incentives to do so sooner. When a farmer passes land down, the child is often already in their 50s or 60s and is not likely to expand the farm, he said.
Conklin said that other states have passed similar legislation and that it would be a useful tool for reducing the age of farmers in Ohio.