Ag Areas Overview

Ag Areas – official known as “Agricultural Areas” can be established through local action under the authority found in the Agricultural Areas Conservation and Protection Act passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 1980.

 

Ag Areas offer one means of helping to maintain farmland for farming purposes. While the Ag Area designation is not a total solution in and of itself, it is another tool that may be used by landowners.

 

The development of Ag Areas is best accomplished in those areas which are strictly agricultural in nature and where landowners and county officials have an interest in preserving the land for farming. A minimum of 350 acres is required. It takes the commitment of both landowners and county government officials to make it happen.

 

Once established, the Ag Area remains in place for 10 years; with subsequent extensions of the designation each lasting an additional 8 years. Provisions are in place to allow individual parcels of property to be removed from, or added to, the area within those periods of time. Again, both the landowners and local government officials will have to agree on those changes making Ag Areas truly a joint effort by the public and private sectors.

 

For more information, contact the LaSalle County Farm Bureau or the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Farmland Protection (217-782-6297).

Miscellaneous Facts on Ag Areas

  1. Size of an Ag Area

    1. Minimum – 350 acres

    2. Maximum – No Limit

    Implementation of an Ag Area

    1. Total implemented at the county level. Ag Areas are approved, modified, or terminated by the county board. The county state’s attorney should be consulted for legal advice when forming an Ag Area.

    2. Ag Areas are adopted for a 10 year period initially, and are renewable every 8 years thereafter.

    Land proposed for inclusion in an Ag Area

    1. Ag Areas should be as compact and contiguous as possible. The county board has the discretion as to what constitutes “compact and contiguous.” Municipal authorities may object to land within a proposed Ag Area that falls within 1 ½ miles of the corporate limits. If the county board receives such an objection, the Ag Area shall be modified to exclude the land within the municipality’s 1 ½ mile jurisdiction.

    2. No land may be included within an Ag Area without the consent of the landowner(s).

    Benefits of an Ag Area

    1. Protects landowners from local laws or ordinances which would unreasonably restrict or regulate normal farming practices, including nuisance ordinances. Provides protection from special benefit assessments (examples – sewer, water, light, and non-farm drainage assessments), unless the landowners are benefited. All special benefit assessments will continue, however, if they were imposed prior to the formation of the Ag Area. Protects land from locally initiated projects which would lead to the conversion of that land to other uses (examples – park, garbage dump, etc.).State agencies may take into account the existence of Ag Areas when selecting a site for a project; however, the Act does not prohibit these agencies from acquiring land in Ag Areas for development purposes. Ag Areas protect the integrity of farming operations.

    2. A County Board that adopts Ag Areas is declaring that agriculture is important to the community and local economy.

    Mineral Rights

    1. Agreements for the extraction of mineral resources in place before the creation of an Ag Area are exempt from the provisions of the Ag Areas Act.

    2. Mineral extraction pursuant to the Surface Coat Mining Land Conservation and Reclamation Act (1980) is considered to be a temporary land use and is therefore allowed within an Ag Area.

    Land ownership and Ag Areas.

    1. There are no restrictions on buying and selling land that is within an Ag Area.

    2. The Ag Area designation continues to exist regardless of a change in ownership.

  2. Use of land within an Ag Area.

    1. No land within an Ag Area can be used for other than agricultural production.

      • Agricultural production means the production for commercial purposes of crops, livestock, as well as livestock and aquatic products.

      • Agricultural production does not include portions of land used for the processing of crops, livestock, along with livestock and aquatic products.

    2. A house can be built on land in an Ag Area if a person who lives in the residence is actively involved with the farming operation (i.e., farm owner, operator, tenant, and seasonal or year-round hired workers).


Summary of Steps in Forming an Ag Area

  1. Owner(s) of at least 350 acres submits a petition to the County Board. The petition includes:

    1. Description of the proposed area (including the affected acreage).

    2. Boundary description.

    County Board may appoint an Ag Area committee.

    1. Membership.

      1. 4 active farmers, but no more than 2 can be of the same political party.

      2. 1 County Board member.

      Pay

      1. None.

      2. County Board can reimburse them for their expenses.

    2. Purpose – advise County Board on:

      1. Desirability of forming, modifying, or terminating an Ag Area.Nature of farming and farm resources within a proposed Ag Area.

      2. Relation of farming in the proposed Ag Area to the county as a whole.

    County Board considers the Ag Area.

    1. Publishes notice of proposed Ag Area:

      1. The notice is published in a local area newspaper, or in county-wide newspaper, and in 5 conspicuous places within the proposed area.

      2. The County Board must receive comments from affected landowners within 30 days following the publishing of the proposed Ag Area.

      Sends copy of notice to county or regional planning commission.

      1. For review and comment.

      2. Has 30 days to review and provide comments to the County Board.

      Things that the County Board considers.

      1. Viability of the proposed area for farming, and viability of adjoining land for farming.Nature and extent of land uses other than active farming within the proposed area and adjacent to it.County development plans, patterns, and needs,

      2. The existence of conservation plans approved by the county SWCD on land in the proposed Ag Area.

      Notifies municipal authorities of proposed Ag Area formation, if any of the area falls within 1 ½ miles of municipal boundaries.

      1. Municipal authorities may object to the proposed area within 30 days and that area can be excluded from the Ag Area.

      Submits proposals for modifying the Ag Area to the Ag Area committee.

      1. This is done at the end of the 30 day review period which began after the petition was submitted to the County Board.

      2. Ag Area committee has 45 days to report its recommendations to the County Board.

      Holds a public hearing.

      1. Held by the Ag Area committee during their 45 day review period. To be held at a place within the proposed area or a place readily accessible to the proposed area. Notice of hearing shall give the following information

        • Time, date, place of public hearing.Description of originally proposed area and any proposed additions, modifications, or recommendations.

        • Statement on what lands the hearing is considering.

      2. Notice must be published in area newspaper or in county-wide newspaper, and sent to persons owning land proposed for inclusion in the Ag Area

      Adopts the Ag Area.

      1. County Board may adopt the proposed Ag Area or any modification of it after receiving reports of the Ag Area committee, comments generated at the public hearing, county or regional planning commission comments, and miscellaneous other comments.

      2. Has 45 days to adopt or reject the Ag Area from the date that the county committee’s recommendations on the proposal were submitted to it.

      Files description of Ag Area with the County Clerk and Recorder of Deeds after adoption.

    2. Notifies the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) of the adoption or rejection of the proposal and provides the IDOA with a description of the Ag Area within 45 days of taking such action.

    Withdrawal from an Ag Area.

    1. Any person may petition the County Board requesting land be withdrawn from the Ag Area. Petition must:

      1. Include a statement indicating the proposed alternative land use.Explain the necessity for changing the current use.

      2. Explain why land outside the Ag Area is not suitable for the proposed use.

    2. County Board considers petition for withdrawal. County Board must:

      1. Provide public notice of withdrawal petition within 5 days of petition receipt.Publish notice of withdrawal request:

        • The notice is published in a local area newspaper, or in county-wide newspaper, and in 5 conspicuous places within the proposed area.

      2. Refer the withdrawal petition to county/regional planning commission within 5 days of petition receipt.

        • Planning commission has 30 days to give its recommendation to the County Board concerning potential effects of withdrawal.

      3. Refer the withdrawal petition to the Ag Area committee within 5 days of petition receipt.

        • Ag area committee has 30 days to give its recommendation to the County Board concerning potential effects of withdrawal.

      4. Hold a public hearing within 60 days of receipt of withdrawal petition.

        • Ag area committee holds the hearing.Hearing is held at a readily accessible location for the public in the area of the affected land.

        • County Board provides written notice of the hearing in newspaper of general circulation in the Ag area or in the county, not less than 7 days before the hearing. Such notice shall also be given in writing to the owners of land in or immediately adjacent to the Ag area.

      1. Accept or reject the withdrawal petition.

        • County Board has 90 days after receiving the withdrawal petition to accept or reject the petition in a written decision.

        • Any person adversely affected by a decision of the County Board may obtain judicial review by filing a petition for review within 35 days after the decision.

      2. Notify the Illinois Department of Agriculture:

        • Of any land withdrawn from an Ag area.

        • Notification must be made within 45 days of such action.

    Adding of land to an Ag area:

    1. A proposal for adding any amount of land to an existing Ag area must be submitted to the County Board.
      The County Board submits the proposal to the Ag area committee within 10 days of receipt of the proposal.
      Ag area committee has 45 days to review the proposed additions and to recommend to the County Board approval, disapproval, or modification to the proposal.
      Upon receipt of the Ag area committee’s recommendation, the County Board has 30 days to act.

    2. The County Board must notify the IDOA of any addition of land to a designated Ag area within 45 days of taking such action.

    Review of Ag areas by County Board.

    1. Time Frames

      1. At the end of the of area’s first 10 years, and

      2. Every 8 years thereafter.

      County Board shall ask for recommendations of the Ag areas committee and will ask the Ag areas committee to hold a public hearing at least 120 days prior to the Ag area’s anniversary creation date. See Section 3.F for guidelines on conducting the public hearing.

    2. Alterations or terminations.

      1. County Board can alter or terminate the Ag area at the end of the 10 or 8 years
        anniversary dates. County Board must file notice with the County Clerk of action taken if Ag area is changed or dissolved. County Board must notify the Illinois Department of Agriculture of any Ag area 
        alterations or terminations within 45 days of taking such action.

      2. If County Board doesn’t act, the Ag area shall continue as originally organized.

  2. Dissolution of Ag area by landowners.

    1. Landowners may petition the County Board to dissolve the Ag area 10 years after its creation date.
      Petition must be submitted in writing to the County Board during the 120 day period immediately prior to the 10th anniversary of the area’s creation date.

    2. Takes 2/3 of the landowners’ (or their heirs, representatives, etc.) signatures to dissolve the Ag area.

 

Flowchart Procedure for Creating Ag Areas (.pdf)

 

 

 

© 2015 by LaSalle County Soil and Water Conservation District

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