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EDITORIAL: True reform needed on farmland assessments

The value also takes into account things like the real estate value of structures on farms, production expenses, value of production and so on and so forth. Once set, the base assessment value is then adjusted downwards for poorer soil quality, which makes what the government thinks of your dirt pretty important to farmers.

The idea is to assign fair worth to what is by any conventional measure empty space by evaluating its potential. It’s hardly a bad idea in theory, but in practice the assessment values per acre here in New York have spiked dramatically in recent years. The base assessment value was $513 per acre in 2006. By 2011, it had reached $825, a 61 percent increase. By the state’s figures on crop production, however, the value of production per acre went from $475 in 2006 up to $719 in 2011, a 51 percent increase.

Somebody’s eating that missing 10 percent. (Spoiler alert: it’s farmers.) Things haven’t slowed down, either. This year, the base assessment value is $999.

The massive hikes on assessment values must be slowed, but the real question is why they are skyrocketing when the value of farmers’ crops is rising more modestly?

It also gives some credence to the worries of farmers we spoke with, who while in favor of the assessment cap, suppose the state will get its money from somewhere. They may well be right, but inflating the value of farmland year after year will only create a bubble that, when it bursts, will leave everyone hungry for a more sensible solution.

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