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June 13, 2024

Ford County Following Footsteps Of Shelby County – State’s Attorney Advised Changing Direction From Past Practice –

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On February 14, 2023

Ford Co. (ECWd) –

The Ford County Board met last night for their regular meeting to discuss options for the farm ground they own.

As our readers are aware, Shelby County was the first in the state to stop the improper action of leasing their ground to a private farmer as doing so violates the State Constitution, specifically Article VIII Section 1.

As outlined in the Legislators Annotated Constitution, there is a two-prong requirement to meet the public purpose provision in the Constitution.  When it comes to leasing, the county government has the power to lease to any private or public entity but only for a public purpose.  The lease must be for adequate consideration to the county, and the use of the property has to benefit the public.  In short, receiving money does not meet the two-prong test for public purposes. A private farming operation does not benefit the public, but rather the private interest of the farmer.  To better understand this, we urge everyone to read page 127 to learn how the courts have looked at the private use of public property.

Ford County State’s Attorney Andrew Killian confirmed in his research the same thing we have said for years.  The Ford County Chronicle covered this issue in a recent publication found on two pages of the local paper, here and here.  It was clear he did his homework on the matter, and we commend and thank him for his input during the meeting including having an open dialog on the matter.

Ford County owns three parcels of farm ground.  During last night’s meeting, they voted to place one parcel into a DNR CRP wetland project covering a 10-year period.  Once in the program, the land will be open to the public for numerous conservation activities from bird watchers to hunting.

The other two parcels are going to be custom farmed, just as is being done in Shelby County. Ford County has been discussing the farm ground issue for about six months and it was a welcomed experience to see them focused on selecting the best option for their county while recognizing past practice was wrong. The only question left now is for the Department of Revenue: is the farm ground tax-exempt since it’s no longer being used for private purposes?

We are aware of three other counties working on options for their farm ground as they also agree leasing to a private farmer does not comply with the law.

The meeting video can be viewed below.

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3 Comments
  • Darrel Bruck
    Posted at 17:01h, 14 February Reply

    Here in Kankakee County, Bradley/Bourbonnais High School District 307 owns 120 acres of farmland which they rent on a per acre basis. They rent the land to a farmer below the market value. I believe it is because they are just that stupid. My question is are they also in violation of Illinois law or does the law only apply to county government?

    • Kirk Allen & John Kraft
      Posted at 20:14h, 14 February Reply

      More than likely in violation of the law.

    • PK
      Posted at 20:29h, 14 February Reply

      Here the city does a 50/50 contract with the school district whereby FFA students enrolled at the HS farm a small acerage of lowlying ground parceled with the cemetery. The city uses any proceeds to offset cemetary maintenance costs. A FFA student reports out to city council each fall. The contract/resultion is renewed annually; a lawful practice, I believe.

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