Red Alert over Green AcresThe Douglas County Assessor’s office mailed out letters today alerting farmers about recent changes to the longtime provision of the state’s agricultural property tax law.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
In Minnesota, the Green Acres program is no longer the place to be.
The Douglas County Assessor’s office mailed out letters today alerting farmers about recent changes to the longtime provision of the state’s agricultural property tax law.
Started in 1969, Green Acres granted tax deferments to farmland owners whose property increased in value due to “non-farming influences,” such as residential development or the price of lakeshore.
The program allowed county assessors to record two property values for agricultural land parcels: the actual market value and the lower Green Acres value, which is what owners paid taxes on.
Last spring, the state Legislature changed the rules, citing abuses in the system.
Before, whole properties were either eligible for the program’s tax deferment or they weren’t.
Now, agricultural land will be divided into two categories: productive and non-productive.
Only productive land, that which is actively farmed or pastured, will be eligible for Green Acres.
Everything that isn’t used, such as sloughs, woodlands and wetlands, will no longer qualify, and owners will have to pay taxes on them based on their market value.
Douglas County has roughly 74,000 acres – 50,000 tillable – currently enrolled in the Green Acres program with a total market worth of $220 million, and a Green Acres value of $146.7 million.
The new rules apply to both new applications for the program, as well as properties already enrolled in Green Acres.
Farmers already in the program have two choices.
They can take their non-productive acres out of the program immediately and pay the difference in tax for the last three years.
Or, owners can keep their non-productive acres in Green Acres until they decide to sell, develop, subdivide or in any way modify their property.
If they go that route, they will be charged a seven-year payback when they sell or develop their land.
Keith Albertsen, Douglas County assessor, said although his office is charged by the state to implement the law changes, he doesn’t agree with them.
“I thought the program, as it was, wasn’t that bad,” he said. “[The change] seems counterproductive to what the goal of the program was.”
Albertsen called the payback provision for parcels already in the program “grossly unfair,” and he’s hopeful the Legislature will re-examine, and perhaps reverse, the changes when it re-convenes next year.
“In the meantime, we are going to light a fire under a lot of people and needlessly cause some anxiety.”