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Minnesota Legislature

New Law: Green Acres tax law reformed

Published (7/15/2011)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Because of unintended consequences resulting from 2008 and 2009 changes to the Green Acres and Rural Preserves programs, the programs were again tweaked this year. Sponsored by Rep. Mike LeMieur (R-Little Falls) and Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), the new law applies to taxes payable beginning in 2012.

In 2008, legislators created a dual tax classification system for productive agricultural land (2a) and non-productive rural vacant land (2b). Furthermore, the law provided that the non-productive land would only be allowed to remain in the Green Acres program until sale or transfer to a new owner. One year later, the Legislature created a new program called Rural Preserves for the non-productive land, which had tax benefits similar to Green Acres, and provided that no non-productive land would be allowed in Green Acres after taxes payable in 2013. In order for land to be enrolled in Rural Preserves, a farmer was required to develop a conservation plan for the land, and to sign a covenant that the land would not be developed or farmed for a period of years. Property owners and county assessors explained problems with the revisions.

Effective April 16, 2011, the law no longer requires farmers to develop a conservation plan or to sign a covenant agreement to enroll in Rural Preserves.

The law also requires that Rural Preserve land, of any size, be contiguous to property enrolled in Green Acres and under the same ownership. Previously, a minimum 10 acres was required.

An aerial photograph or satellite image of the property that clearly defines the land being enrolled is now required as part of the enrollment process. If a property owner wants to remove land from either program before the authorized date, three years of deferred taxes will become due.

Effective April 16, 2011, interested parties will work toward an alternative method for determining the taxable value of enrolled agricultural and rural vacant land. A report is due by Feb. 15, 2012.

The 2011 enrollment period to get into the Rural Preserves tax relief program was extended until Aug. 1, 2011, due to program reforms made by lawmakers this session.

HF12*/ SF222/CH13

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