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To modify or repeal Green Acres

Published (1/30/2009)
By Sonja Hegman
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Changes to the Green Acres tax benefit program could be repealed or fixed, under two bills approved Jan. 27 by the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division.

HF10, sponsored by Rep. Al Doty (DFL-Royalton), that would repeal the 2008 changes, heads to the House Taxes Committee. A companion, SF238, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Fobbe (DFL-Zimmerman), awaits action by the Senate Taxes Committee. The bill will keep the class of land created by the 2008 changes — the rural vacant land class — but allows it to be enrolled in Green Acres.

In 2008, the Green Acres law was modified by changing the definition of land allowed in the program. These changes also included a seven-year tax payback if land is transferred or sold out of current ownership. The law was changed because it was found that land had been allowed into the program that should not have qualified. The taxes not paid by those in the Green Acres program are paid by local property taxpayers.

In 2007, Green Acres shifted $35 million to local property taxpayers who live near land enrolled in the program. Next year, it is expected to shift $55 million.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Faust (DFL-Hinckley), HF217 would modify current law. It moves now to the House Environment Policy and Oversight Committee. A companion, SF286, sponsored by Sen. Rick Olseen (DFL-Harris), awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Verterans Committee.

“This bill does two things,” said Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), the division chairman. “It grandfathers in everyone that’s in Green Acres up to today, which is the same rules as always, which is the same as (HF10). … (HF217) makes the farm one productive unit instead of splitting it up.”

So any land currently enrolled in Green Acres that is part of an agricultural homestead may stay enrolled, but only half of the acreage can be classified as rural vacant land.

According to the nonpartisan House Research Department, the bill would also:

• reduce the seven-year payback for land withdrawn from the program to three, as it was before the 2008 changes;

• broaden the definition of agricultural products by including the commercial boarding of horses and trees sold for timber, lumber, wood or wood products, allowing that property to be eligible for agricultural classification;

• require that a farm must be capable of producing agricultural products worth at least $1,000 per year; and

• provide that land enrolled in Reinvest in Minnesota, the Conservation Reserve Program or a similar government-sponsored conservation program may be enrolled in Green Acres only if the conservation acres constitute less than half of the total farm acreage.

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