Mo. farmers with best land face 2011 tax rise

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2009 9:22 AM

Farmers who own the best agricultural land in Missouri might be saddled with higher taxes starting 2011 while those with less desirable plots could see their duties cut, under a proposal to adjust the productive value of the state's farmland.

The Missouri State Tax Commission has agreed on new productive values on farmland, which are used to calculate property taxes and are determined by evaluating the land's potential agricultural earnings.

Missouri's farms are divided into eight grades based on land quality, with the best farms in Grade 1. The tax commission said Tuesday it proposes increasing the productive value of farms in the top four categories _ which are generally cropland _ reducing the values for the next three lower categories, and leaving the lowest category unchanged.

If the state Legislature approves the proposed changes, they will take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

The Missouri Farm Bureau has urged the tax commission not to increase the productive value of agricultural land, and says it will ask lawmakers to reject the proposed changes.

"Missouri farmers are carrying some of the highest debt load in the nation, and clearly they cannot be expected to shoulder a tax increase," Farm Bureau President Charles Kruse said Tuesday.

Under the proposed changes, the best properties with deep, ideal soils that are flat, easily worked and produce dependable crop yields, would see an increase in productive value from $985 per acre to $1,270

Grade 5 farms would experience the biggest drop in productive value, from $195 per acre to $147. Such properties can be moderately steep with serious drainage problems and where the soil is not suited for continuous cultivation.

Therefore, the productive value of an acre of Grade 1 cropland would rise to $152.40 from the current $118.20, while an acre of Grade 5 land would have an assessed productive value of $17.64 instead of $23.40.

State Tax Commission Chairman Bruce Davis said the new values were calculated by an organization based at the University of Missouri-Columbia that had studied a 15-year cycle of farm income.

Agriculture Department Director Jon Hagler in November urged the three-member tax commission not to increase any land values and to cut them for pasture and timber land. In a letter to the commissioners, Hagler warned that increases could hamper the state's farmers and the overall economy.

An Agriculture Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.