State Legislature OKs Agricultural Assessment Cap

State farmers are getting some help with out-of-control property taxes.

The New York State Legislature recently passed a bill that will cap agricultural land assessment increases at 2 percent per year.

There has been great concern among farmers who have seen rising land values push up property tax bills for farmland in recent years, essentially doubling since 2006.

“The catalyst behind this bill was the rising tax bills that our farmers have been receiving every year for their school and county property taxes,” said Steve Ammerman, New York Farm Bureau manager of public affairs. “In New York, agricultural land is assessed differently than a homeowner’s piece of property. It’s assessed by agricultural output, value of what is produced, what type of soil is on the farm land … there is a rather complicated formula that the state uses to assess that property. Because of the numbers the state puts into this formula, our farmers have seen their assessed land values hitting 10 percent increases every single year. There needed to be better control over these rising property taxes, and capping the agricultural assessment for these farms at 2 percent makes economic sense.”

According to Ammerman, the property taxes that state farmers pay average around $38 per acre. Nationally, the average property tax is only around $12 per acre for farm land.

According to statistics provided by the New York State Farm Bureau, New York has the second highest property tax for agricultural land in the county, and consumes 15 percent of a farm’s net income, on average.

“Our farmers are at a clear competitive disadvantage because of this burden,” said Ammerman.

Ammerman said that, while placing a cap on the percentage that agricultural land can increase in assessed value per year is a good place to start, the farm bureau is working diligently to reform the arbitrary formula the state uses to determine assessment value.

“It’s something that we would like to see addressed,” said Ammerman. “In addition to the cap on assessments, we would like to see the state put together a working group of stakeholders, whether that’s agricultural markets, people from the tax department, people within the agricultural industry … bringing them together to look at this formula … and try to find a more fair and equitable way to tax property and tax farm land in the state. We believe it is necessary and we hope it can happen.”

While the 2 percent land assessment cap is welcomed news for state farmers, the farm bureau believes that there is more work to be done.

“This ag assessment cap is really just a band-aid,” said Ammerman. “It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, and that’s the way the land is assessed, and how it’s just not working for the best interest for New York agriculture.”