County creates bidding process for its farm ground

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The Union County Commissioners are leasing their farm ground.
The county recently accepted a bid from Darrison Cook to farm 72 acres of county ground. County officials said the county owns 66 acres on County Home Road and “the rest is spread out on some other areas,” said County Administrator Tim Hansley.
Cook will pay $185 per acre to farm the land. The bid was more than $40 above the only other bidder, Lee Farms.
Hansley said that county officials worked closely with the Ohio State University Ag Extension Office to create a set of best practices form managing the land. He said the county has set parameters for what chemicals may be applied to the land and how they need to be applied.
“This is the first time we are having any standards,” Hansley said.
He added, “We spent some time working on this so people aren’t just taking advantage and stripping the land.”
He said the fine details of the contract are still being worked out. He said the day bids were opened, the county engineer said he needed more space for storage. He said that will likely change the acreage available to be farm.
Hall said Cook’s contract is three years with an option for an additional two.
Hansley said that in the past the arrangements to farm the land were, “very informal.”
“It goes back to the Max Robinson era, and maybe even before that,” Commissioner Charles Hall said.
Hall said that group of commissioners asked Gary Lee, of Lee Farms, to tend the ground. He explained the county paid for seed and fertilizer and reimbursed the farmer for costs. The county also paid the farmer to farmer the land.
“All the income went to the county,” Hall explained.
When Gary Lee became a commissioner, the county asked Dean Cook to take over the farming of the county ground. How was Cook selected?
According to information from the Union County Commissioner’s Office, over the last five years, the county paid Cook an average of $16,904.53 to cover his fees as well as the actual costs of farming the land — seed, fertilizer, equipment use, etc. Officials said Cook was paid using contract rates established by agriculture officials, though no one could give the actual amount.
According to information from the Union County Commissioner’s Office, for the last four years, the county averaged $20,769.47 in profit after the bills were paid.
Hansley said he is “a little disappointed in the bids. Based on the averages, the county will actually lose almost $7,500 a year by leasing the land.
“I was hoping we would have more than just two bidders,” Hansley said.
Regardless of how the arrangements were handled in the past, Hansley said bidding the farming options is the right way to do it.
“We are finally becoming one of the big boys and want to do things the right way,” Hansley said.
He added, “It was never about the money, but it is nice to get some revenue off it. In a county struggling for revenue, every little bit helps, but mostly, we just wanted to keep it from going to weeds.”



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