SB 44 – Classifying agricultural land – updated

by Bill Powers

SB 44 is a hold over from last year. It’s stated purpose is: “revise the criteria for classifying property as agricultural land and to provide for additional requirements for small agricultural acreages and timber land to be classified as agricultural land.”

I was concerned about it last year because I didn’t understand it. I feel the same this year. It appears to be affect small land owners (less than 20 acres) or those who don’t obtain a significant portion of their income from the land. I can’t even tell whether the bill would affect only state designations of Ag land or municipalities as well.

I think real estate taxes ought to be imposed according to services provided to the land owner, however you would calculate those services. It is clearly not done that way now. I pay over four times as much taxes for equivalent adjacent land because some of it is in a municipality, although the services provided for both tracts is the same. It seems odd to me to tax land based wholly on what value it is to you. It seems to me that some kind of service is being provided by having ag land near roads, railroads, schools, and hospitals. If the land were near no such services, the owner ought to pay lower taxes. But that’s not how its done now.

In any case, Jim Peterson of District 4 says the bill will probably not get out of committee. Still, I’d like to understand what its trying to do and why.

Note: This bill is up in Senate Taxation at 10:00am today. You can listen live to the proceeding here.

UPDATE: The bill was sent to the 41st day, meaning it didn’t pass. It is going back to the Ag Land Task Force over the summer for revisions; legislators feel it is “85% there” but aren’t ready to give it a full go.

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