Missouri farmers urging lawmakers to reject farmland assessment

Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's agriculture community is urging state lawmakers to reject a plan that would boost property taxes for some Missouri farmers.

The issue came before the Senate Rules Committee on a resolution to reject a proposal from the state's Tax Commission to change the method for assessing farm land.

The commission would raise the property tax on the higher productive acres of Missouri farmland.

"This will decrease the value of farmland," said Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, a Rules Committee member. "This is as close to a no-brainer as you can get."

Each Missouri farm is assigned a value of one to eight based on the amount of productivity a farmer can draw out of the land. Grade 1 farms have the most desirable land, and Grade 8 farms have the least.

The estimates were approved by the commission in December and would raise property taxes on Missouri farmland in Grades 1 to 4 by an expected 90 cents per acre, or 29 percent.

Because crops are generally planted in the higher quality plots because of soil nutrients, crop farmers could see a big hit to their income.

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, said farmers already have plenty of legislation in the state of Missouri working in their economic favor, but she was countered by fellow committee member Norma Champion, R-Greene County.

Champion argued that residential and commercial properties are not taxed based on profitability and neither should agricultural land.

"Farmers are not asking for an exception," Champion said. "All taxes should remain the same."

Representing the Missouri Farm Bureau, Leslie Holloway said agriculture would still see an 11.5 percent increase in property taxes despite the 20 cent per acre decrease in Grades 5 to 7 if no action is taken.

Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, spoke Tuesday in favor of rejecting the commission's decision pointing out recent crop market volatility.

"We are in a time of extreme price shifts on both input and output sides," Stouffer said. "We need a time of tranquility to get back to the averages.

"Now is just not the time," he said.

Rules Committee Chairman and Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he would like to have a decision by next week.

If no action is taken, the increase will be effective Jan. 1, 2011.

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