Johnson County Agriculture Proposed Changes, Farmland Moving Forward

Johnson County continued its conversation Tuesday night about possible changes to how it regulates agriculture.

Much of this discussion focused on who could receive an agricultural exemption for their land. A property owner who qualifies for the exemption would not need to obtain a permit to build on their land. If a property does not have an agricultural exemption, the county may also restrict the number of animals on it.

Changes to that order say farms of 40 acres or more would automatically be exempt unless owners of land that size who are not yet exempt plan to build a home, in which case they would have to apply for an exemption.

Properties under 40 acres would have to meet certain criteria to be exempt, qualifying based on tests of history and experience, intent and plans, and primary land suitability.

The Johnson County Planning and Zoning Commission passed these changes to the Unified Development Ordinance by a 5-0 vote.

Most of the people who spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing told commissioners they appreciate the changes the county is considering, but don’t think it’s enough at this time.

“The State of Iowa says you can’t regulate agriculture in Johnson County, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, and I know that’s not you, and I appreciate it. all your guys thoughts and help, but why?” Johnson County resident Amy Swenka said.

Some of the speakers also reaffirmed to the commission that they want to make sure the changes will help Johnson County farmers, not discourage farming.

“All farms are a way of life, not just a business,” said North Liberty resident Jesse Burns. “ANF stands for ‘America Needs Farmers’ and stands for All Farms.”

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors will vote on when to schedule a public hearing for those changes during its business session on Wednesday.

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