What makes land *agricultural* land?

This is a question being addressed directly by HB 1097, to revise the criteria for classifying property as agricultural land. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Verchio, a Republican from Hill City, the bill will update the law that lays out what the criteria is for classifying land as “agricultural.” Right now, in order to be classified as “ag,” the land must meet two of three criteria: 1) a third of the family’s total gross income must come from agricultural production; 2) the land’s principle use is production of any number of agricultural products; and 3) the land must be of at least 20 acres, or or is a part of a contiguous ownership of not less than eighty acres of unplatted land.

On that last item, counties can raise that minimum acreage all the way up to 160 acres, which for small producers can be pretty difficult to meet. If you don’t meet that, you’re required then to meet both 1 and 2, the definitions of which can be vague, and if your “gross family income” includes an outside income, it can be difficult to meet that “one third” requirement. This came to a head this past year when Pennington County raised their minimum acreage to 160 acres, and caused quite the citizen backlash from small producers.

So, the law is being updated, and from all sides of the aisle and by all accounts, it looks like a good bill. The new law would require ALL ag land to meet the requirement that the land’s primary purpose is agricultural production, and then one of two additional criteria: a minimum acreage of 20 acres, or at least $1,000 in gross agricultural income from the land.

These requirements make it much easier for people who are on small acreages to meet the requirements of being “agricultural” land. Many of our members are currently growing food – and lots of it – on plots of land which will greatly benefit from these changes, and our board has approved support of the bill. So let your legislators know now to support it, and let’s get ag land the recognition it deserves!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this explanation. I will weigh in on it and pass the word.

  2. The problem with assessing changes to the definition of ag land are at least twofold. First, how that definition is employed in law is undefined and unconstrained. Second, with respect to property taxes, no where is there any legal description of why there is a ag distinction at all. IOW,nothing constrains the use of the term ag land. As such, “ag” has any and no meaning. It is arbitrary. It is therefore difficult to argue for or against any change.

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