Don Bailey of Union County is fighting to defend the agricultural easements on his Union County farms.

Farmland preservation case moving forward

The Arno Renner farm, currently operated by Renner’s nephew Don Bailey and his family, will appear before Union County Pleas Court on Wednesday Nov. 17 at 9:30 a.m. to attempt to uphold its agricultural easements and prevent Columbia Gas from further plans to install a gas line through nine acres of the property. The hearing will determine whether or not there is a necessity to take the land, and whether the public benefit of farmland has priority. The Department of Agriculture currently holds the easements which have previously protected the farm from similar situations.

In 2003, Arno Renner and the Arno Renner Trust donated the Ag Easement to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to ensure that the land would remain forever in agriculture. Several terms of the easement, if enforced by ODA, would prevent the construction of the commercial/industrial natural gas pipeline proposed by Columbia Gas. On July 7, 2021, the landowners requested that ODA enforce the easement and issue a cease and desist letter to Columbia Gas of Ohio. ODA declined to do so per a letter written to the landowners’ legal counsel.

“We’re concerned that once one utility is allowed to go through, it is a natural corridor for all utilities to start going through. Since it is preserved as farmland, the value of it is much less than the commercial value of the land across the road. It is the cheapest place for utilities to go through. That is what we are afraid of. If the State won’t defend it, preserved land will be targeted for that particular reason,” Don Bailey said. “This is not just about us. Right now I could not recommend to another farmer that they give their easement to the state. I’d hate to see that because this is a good program and people have invested a lot of time and money in it. Many farm owners want a way to preserve their farm. It is disheartening to see this. If there are no teeth in the easement, then the program is dead.”

GoFundMe page has been set up for those who would like to donate funding to help the Baileys with legal costs( in this high stakes case for the future of farmland preservation in Ohio. 

There is precedent for protecting the land in the Renner easement. On Aug. 13, 2008, then Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers issued an opinion reviewing the easement and determined that its terms would prevent the construction of a commercial utility pipeline project such as the proposed Marysville Connector on the Arno Renner Ag Easement land. The current ODA administration believes the opposite, contrary to prior enforcement decisions of ODA and the Ohio Attorney General.

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