To the editor:
I have co-authored a bill (HF12) to fix problems which arose with the Green Acres agricultural land program after some changes were made to it a few of years ago. Hearings pertaining to this issue are scheduled to take place so we can re-examine the topic and make improvements.
The bill I'm sponsoring would restore Green Acres to its pre-2008 form. Here's a quick recap of this issue:
The program has been in place for more than 40 years, allowing farmers and landowners to keep their family farms in a tax classification where farms could be valued at their agricultural value. This protected them from rising valuations due to developmental pressures.
Some changes passed late in the 2008 session without having received due consideration on the House floor; they were buried deep within a raft of omnibus tax bill pages. Maybe there were some components of Green Acres which needed improvement, but the 2008 changes were too far-reaching and the consequences were devastating. For example, it became impossible for many farmers to continue owning their land and to pass it on to the next generation without huge tax liabilities. People were caught off-guard and rightly feared they would have no choice but to sell their property to escape the new tax burden; this legislation was going to break up the family farm.
Green Acres improvements have been enacted during the 2009 and 2010 sessions, but they nibbled around the edges and left many problems unresolved. Now, we are going to the heart of the matter and looking for wholesale changes to make this program productive once again.
Rep. Dean Urdahl