Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa

Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

May 24, 2018 Supervisors not against small farmers
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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Johnson County is about to vote on an update to our comprehensive land use plan. This happens roughly every 10 years.

All of our various planning and zoning ordinances and rules are now under review.

One land use topic has been in the news a lot lately, and that is the idea of a small farmers and access to land. In a classic economy, the market takes care of access. If you want it, you buy it. If someone wants it more than you, that person pays more. The value of the land is what someone is willing to pay.

Once you add the layer of zoning into the mix, things change. Now the uses of the land are restricted. So where land might be worth $75,000 an acre for development, it is only worth $10,000 an acre as farmland. With these types of disparities, you can begin to see the issues.

By limiting the ag exemption to lots of 40 acres or more, the board put a stop to five- and 10-acre residential lots. This worked fine for many years.

You will often hear people claim that the board says less than 40 acres is not a “farm.” But here is the deal. When people talk about the definition of a farm, they are typically referring to the ag exemption that exempts farm-land from most zoning laws.

There are several things you can do on ag exempt property. You can have a virtually unlimited numbers of animals. You can build two houses, and the houses do not need to be inspected. You can build an almost unlimited number of outbuildings, and these buildings do not need to be inspected.

So one can see why every one would want an ag exemption. Fewer rules are good, right? Well, not always.

The county Board of Supervisors is not against small farmers. Board members and planning staff have identified tracts of land for beginning small farmers, and there is also the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. But these issues are complicated

Anything the board does to change the 40-Acre Rule could have devastating effects in terms of CAFOs, urban sprawl and more. We need to make changes, but we need to make them thoughtfully, carefully, and with a sharp eye toward unintended consequences.

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