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House passes Green Acres updates

Published (3/25/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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With a May 1 deadline looming for agricultural landowners to enroll in the Green Acres program for 2012 taxable year, the House declared HF12 an urgent matter March 24 and voted 98-24 to amend the Green Acres law. It now moves to the Senate where Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd) is the sponsor.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike LeMieur (R-Little Falls), HF12 would no longer require landowners to sign a covenant agreement with assessors and would terminate existing covenants.

Farmers voluntarily enroll in Green Acres to avoid paying higher property tax rates when untilled farmland is assessed at a higher rate due to rising land values.

A minimum of 10 acres must be enrolled, but the bill would also allow smaller contiguous properties beside tillable land to be enrolled.

Currently, when the land is transferred or sold, three years of the tax savings must be paid back.

Under the proposed changes, past enrollees or new applicants would be grandfathered in or have until May 1, 2012, to enroll under the condition that three years of tax savings must be paid back if they sell the land. Anyone who enrolls after that date would be required to pay back five years of tax savings when they sell or transfer the land.

Anyone enrolled from May 21, 2008, until now who was removed from the program must be reinstated at the landowner’s request, provided the request is made by Sept. 1, 2011.

The bill would also require stakeholders and taxing authorities to explore alternative taxing means for determining tillable and non-tillable land. A report would be due to the legislature by Feb. 15, 2012.

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