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Farmers push for property tax relief

Farm Bureau wants to see land assessments capped at 2 percent

— Eating local is a growing trend, but agricultural advocates are concerned spiraling land values are discouraging industry growth in the Empire State.

The New York Farm Bureau is lobbying state legislators to limit agricultural assessments to a maximum increase of 2 percent annually, which it claims mirrors the relief property owners received through the 2011 tax cap. The state Senate passed the bill at the end of May, but it needs to go through the Assembly before this year’s legislative session ends on Thursday, June 20.

The bureau is targeting land assessments, and not the tax rate itself. Assessments are calculated differently for agricultural land than residential and commercial property through a national formula. Agricultural assessments are currently capped at 10 percent statewide.

“We feel it is needed because we are seeing a large increase of 10 percent raises in assessment value every year and as the assessments go up, property taxes corresponding go up as well,” the New York Farm Bureau’s Steve Ammerman said. “It is to the point that our farmers have seen their property tax bills double over the last 10 years.”

Property taxes account for approximately 15 percent of the average farm’s net income in New York, which is 5 percent above the national average, according to Farm Credit East, a company providing loans and financial management services to farmers. The average property tax bill for a New York state farmer in 2007 was $5,544 and it increased to nearly $7,650 in 2011, almost $2,500 above the national average.

The average farm in the state is also smaller than the national average – 195 acres compared to 420 acres. The average state farmer pays $38.41 per acre in property taxes, according to Farm Credit East, which is above the national average of $12.34.

Barry Flansberg, assessor for the towns of Oakfield, Elba and Byron in Genesee County and the Town of Barre in Orleans County, said from 1990 to 2006 the average assessment for one soil type was around $550, but this year that same soil type is $1,000.

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