Iowa Public Television

 

States propose property tax relief for farmers; large scale hogs come under state scrutiny

posted on February 4, 2000


WHILE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WRESTLE WITH HOW BEST TO RESTRUCTURE GOVERNMENT FARM PROGRAMS, THEIR STATEHOUSE BRETHREN IN FARM COUNTRY ARE ADDRESSING THE SAME ISSUES, ALBEIT WITH FAR FEWER FINANCIAL RESOURCES.

THE SCARCITY OF TAX DOLLARS MAKES IT UNFEASIBLE FOR STATE LEGISLATURES TO SIMPLY THROW DOLLARS AT THE FARM PROBLEM. URBAN CONSTITUENCIES ALSO EXERT PRESSURES TO RESTRAIN THE FLOW OF STATE REVENUES TO THE "HINTERLANDS."

UNDAUNTED, HOWEVER, MANY INNOVATIVE STATE LAWMAKERS ARE TINKERING WITH THE STRUCTURE OF EXISTING TAX CODES AND DEVISING LENDING PROGRAMS TO PROVIDE RELIEF TO FARM COUNTRY.

IT'S BECOME AN ANNUAL RITE OF WINTER --

LAWMAKERS IN FARM STATE CAPITOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY LOOKING FOR WAYS TO INJECT SOME LIFE INTO MORIBUND LOCAL FARM ECONOMIES. IN MOST CASES, ESPECIALLY IN AN ELECTION YEAR, THAT EFFORT CENTERS ON TAX BREAKS.

IN NEBRASKA, LAWMAKERS ARE WORKING ON A PLAN TO LOWER THE MAXIMUM TAX RATE ON FARMLAND BY 3 PERCENTAGE POINTS PER YEAR FOR 10 YEARS. THE BILL'S INTENT IS TO LOWER THE TAX RATE TO 50% OF MARKET VALUE. A SECOND BILL WOULD LOWER THE FARMLAND RATE TO 70% OF MARKET VALUE.

THE UNICAMERAL ALSO IS LOOKING AT EXTENDING A TAX CREDIT TO AGRICULTURAL LANDOWNERS BASED ON INCOME-EARNING ABILITY. THE HIGHER THE PROPERTY TAXES AND THE LOWER THE INCOME, THE GREATER THE CREDIT.

THE SOUTH DAKOTA LEGISLATURE IS PONDERING A SIMILAR MEASURE THAT WOULD PEG THE TAXABLE VALUE OF FARMLAND TO ITS INCOME-EARNING ABILITY, RATHER THAN TO COMPARABLE LAND PRICES. REVISIONISTS CLAIM TAX RATES GET SKEWED UNDER THE CURRENT SYSTEM WHEN FARMLAND IS SOLD FOR DEVELOPMENT OR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES.

IN MINNESOTA, HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE CALLED FOR A PACKAGE THAT INCLUDES UP TO $40 MILLION IN PROPERTY TAX RELIEF FOR FARMERS. AT ITS CORE, THE PLAN ALLOWS FARMERS TO EXEMPT A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF THEIR LAND FROM THE EDUCATION PORTION OF THEIR PROPERTY TAXES.

TAX CUTS ARE THE MOST EASILY VOICED RELIEF THAT LAWMAKERS CAN OFFER. BUT FROM STATE-TO-STATE THERE ARE OTHER PLANS THAT DEAL WITH EVERYTHING FROM INFRASTRUCTURE TO CROP SUPPORT.

AMONG THE IDEAS ARE:

--A NEBRASKA BILL TO HELP SMALL- AND MEDIUM-SIZED BEEF PRODUCERS IN DIRECT MARKETING ORGANIC OR ALL-NATURAL BEEF TO RESTAURANTS OR GROCERY STORES.

--A CALL BY MISSOURI'S GOVERNOR TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR STATE-BACKED LOANS AND GRANTS FOR COOPERATIVES THAT ALLOW PRODUCERS TO PROCESS THEIR OWN GOODS.

--AND, A BILL IN THE KANSAS SENATE TO ALLOW FARMERS TO GET STATE-BACKED PRODUCTION LOANS WITH INTEREST RATE REDUCTIONS OF UP TO 4 POINTS.

LARGE SCALE PORK PRODUCTION REMAINS A TARGET FOR MANY STATE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.

IN MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATION HAS BEEN INTRODUCED TO PROHIBIT NEW LARGE SCALE HOG FARMS. IN KANSAS THE GOVERNOR IS PROPOSING A REWRITE OF STATE ANTI-TRUST LAWS THAT WOULD TARGET CORPORATE HOG FARMS.

AND ON FRIDAY IOWA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL FILED AN AMENDED CHALLENGE TO PORK GIANT SMITHFIELD FOODS' PURCHASE OF MURPHY FARMS. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAD EARLIER FILED SUIT TO BLOCK SMITHFIELD'S ACQUISITION OF MURPHY ASSETS IN IOWA. MURPHY SOLD THOSE ASSETS TO A FORMER EMPLOYEE PRIOR TO CLOSING IN ORDER TO AVOID A LEGAL BATTLE.

BUT THE IOWA A.G. CONTENDS THE SALE WAS A SHAM, AND HE'S NOW SEEKING TO PROHIBIT SMITHFIELD FROM DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY CONTROLLING IOWA FEEDING OPERATIONS.

Tags: agriculture farmers farming farms livestock news pigs taxes