On January 21, farmers had their first chance to be heard in a House agriculture committee regarding some catastrophic changes made last session to the Green Acres Program.
Green Acres allowed farmers to enroll land as an alternative to selling it to a developer. The trade off is that the land is taxed at a lower agricultural rate as opposed to fair market value.
Last session, a law was approved that would reduce program eligibility and eliminate non-productive land from being enrolled in the program. The new law also punished those who are utilizing the program, as when their land was taken out of Green Acres, sold, or transferred, they would be responsible for paying taxes on the exempted land for up to seven years.
Without legislative changes to this provision, many farmers could be looking at a balance due of tens of thousands of dollars.
On January 22, the Minnesota House had the opportunity to repeal the Green Acres changes and revert back to the way the program had been running. It would have been a stopgap solution that would have bought us time to examine the Green Acres issue - and give some of the farmers who are facing mammoth property tax bills a big sigh of relief. This is exactly what Minnesota farmers want us to do.
But a large majority of Democrats blocked the measure, and it failed by a vote of 74-51.
Democrats told the public that the Green Acres changes would be dealt with early in the 2009 Legislative Session. Our first month of a five month session is nearly over, and we’ve still not had action. “Early” has ended.
Farmers and county assessors need answers very soon so they can make the needed adjustments.
For whatever reason, the House DFL - that’s the Democratic-FARMER-Labor party - is not interested in taking needed action on behalf of farmers. This is a shame, because if no changes are made to this law we are going to see hundreds of family farms across the state shut down for good.
If you have land enrolled in Green Acres, I strongly urge you to call House DFL leadership and tell them action on this provision is needed immediately. Those numbers are: Speaker of the House Margaret Kelliher - 651-296-0171; House Majority Leader Tony Sertich - 651-296-0172; and Taxes Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski - 651-296-4218.
Perhaps if enough of you call and share your stories, maybe then they will finally understand why it is critical that we make these changes quickly.