Relates to viable agricultural land and renewal of agricultural assessments.
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to viable agricultural land and renewal of agricultural assessments
PURPOSE OF THE BILL:
The bill would improve the administration of the Agricultural Districts Law (Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law).
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill would amend Agricultural and Markets Law ("AML") § 301 (7) to revise the definition of "viable agricultural land" for purposes of the Agricultural Districts Law by defining the term as land highly suitable for "a farm operation", a term already defined in law.
Section 2 of the bill would amend AML § 305(1)(a) to streamline the process of renewing agricultural assessments, provided there are no changes in farmland eligibility or acreage.
Section 3 of the bill provides for an immediate effective date.
AML § 301(7) defines "viable agricultural land" as "... land highly suitable for agricultural production and which will continue to be economically feasible for such use if real property taxes, farm use restrictions, and speculative activities are limited to levels approximating those in commercial agricultural areas not influenced by the proximity of nonagricultural development." AML § 305(1)(a) provides that any owner of land used in agricultural production meeting minimum acreage and sales thresholds shall be eligible for an agricultural assessment upon an annual application to the assessor.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
This is a new proposal.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT:
The bill would amend the definition of "viable agricultural land," which is used both as a standard for adding land to an agricultural district and as the benchmark used by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to certify an agricultural district under AML §§303 and 303-a. Localities have had difficulty in interpreting and applying the current definition.
Additionally, many county Agricultural and Farmland Protection Boards -- which are responsible pursuant to AML §303-b for recommending whether or not land should be added to an agricultural district -have requested that the definition be clarified. In particular, many have had difficulty interpreting the terms "land highly suitable for agricultural production" or determining whether, as required under the definition, such land would "continue to be economically feasible for such use if real property taxes, farm use restrictions, and speculative activities are limited to levels approximating those in commercial agricultural areas not influenced by the proximity of non-agricultural development."
To address this issue, the bill would conform AML § 301(7) to the definition of "farm operation," which is defined in AML §305-a by tying the applicable land, buildings, and equipment to specific farm practices, eg, practices which contribute to the production, preparation and marketing of crops, livestock and livestock products, timber operation, commercial horse boarding operation, and manure processing and handling facilities. The new definition would provide a more workable standard for examining parcels for inclusion in an agricultural district.
The bill would also streamline the process to recertify agricultural assessments. Agricultural assessment was established as part of the Agricultural Districts Law to allow land used for farming to be assessed for real property tax purposes based on its agricultural value as opposed to its development value. By helping to relieve the property tax burden on farmers, agricultural assessment is a key tool in meeting the purposes of the law to protect and enhance the State's agricultural land as a viable segment of the local and State economies and as an economic and environmental resource of major importance.
This bill would permit farm landowners to file a simpler, more streamlined application to receive an agricultural assessment after the first year's application has been filed and accepted, provided that the property continues to meet all eligibility requirements and no changes have been made to the property as listed in the original application. The bill would thus relieve a burden on both landowners and assessors, who are otherwise required to file and review more complex applications for land which has, in many cases, been farmed for decades. Appropriate safeguards are included by requiring landowners to retain eligibility records for submission upon request by the local assessor. If there are any changes in acreage or ownership of the parcel receiving the assessment, a new application must be made which reflects those changes.
BUDGET IMPLICATIONS AND LOCAL IMPACT:
The bill would take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 6778 IN SENATE March 21, 2012 ___________Introduced by Sen. RITCHIE -- (at request of the Department of Agricul- ture and Markets) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Agriculture AN ACT to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to viable agricultural land and renewal of agricultural assessments THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 7 of section 301 of the agriculture and markets law, as amended by chapter 797 of the laws of 1992, is amended to read as follows: 7. "Viable agricultural land" means land highly suitable for
[agricul- tural production and which will continue to be economically feasible for such use if real property taxes, farm use restrictions, and speculative activities are limited to levels approximating those in commercial agri- cultural areas not influenced by the proximity of non-agricultural development]A FARM OPERATION AS DEFINED IN THIS SECTION. S 2. Paragraph a of subdivision 1 of section 305 of the agriculture and markets law, as amended by chapter 514 of the laws of 2007 and as further amended by subdivision (d) of section 1 of part W of chapter 56 of the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows: a. Any owner of land used in agricultural production within an agri- cultural district shall be eligible for an agricultural assessment pursuant to this section. If an applicant rents land from another for use in conjunction with the applicant's land for the production for sale of crops, livestock or livestock products, the gross sales value of such products produced on such rented land shall be added to the gross sales value of such products produced on the land of the applicant for purposes of determining eligibility for an agricultural assessment on the land of the applicant. Such assessment shall be granted only upon an annual application by the owner of such land on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance; PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT AFTER THE INITIAL GRANT OF AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT THE ANNUAL APPLICATION SHALL BE ON A FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION AND FINANCE AND SHALL CONSIST OF ONLY A CERTIFICATION BY THE LANDOWNER THAT THE LANDOWN-EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD14249-01-2 S. 6778 2
ER CONTINUES TO MEET THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR RECEIVING AN AGRI- CULTURAL ASSESSMENT AND SEEKS AN AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT FOR THE SAME ACREAGE THAT INITIALLY RECEIVED AN AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT. THE LANDOWN- ER SHALL MAINTAIN RECORDS DOCUMENTING SUCH ELIGIBILITY WHICH SHALL BE PROVIDED TO THE ASSESSOR UPON REQUEST. THE LANDOWNER MUST APPLY FOR AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT FOR ANY CHANGE IN ACREAGE, WHETHER LAND IS ADDED OR REMOVED, AFTER THE INITIAL GRANT OF AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT. ANY NEW OWNER OF THE LAND WHO WISHES TO RECEIVE AN AGRICULTURAL ASSESSMENT SHALL MAKE AN INITIAL APPLICATION FOR SUCH ASSESSMENT. SUCH APPLICATIONS SHALL BE ON A FORM PRESCRIBED BY THE COMMISSIONER OF TAXATION AND FINANCE. The applicant shall furnish to the assessor such information as the commis- sioner of taxation and finance shall require, including classification information prepared for the applicant's land or water bodies used in agricultural production by the soil and water conservation district office within the county, and information demonstrating the eligibility for agricultural assessment of any land used in conjunction with rented land as specified in paragraph b of subdivision four of section three hundred one of this article. Such application shall be filed with the assessor of the assessing unit on or before the appropriate taxable status date; provided, however, that (i) in the year of a revaluation or update of assessments, as those terms are defined in section one hundred two of the real property tax law, the application may be filed with the assessor no later than the thirtieth day prior to the day by which the tentative assessment roll is required to be filed by law; or (ii) an application for such an assessment may be filed with the assessor of the assessing unit after the appropriate taxable status date but not later than the last date on which a petition with respect to complaints of assessment may be filed, where failure to file a timely application resulted from: (a) a death of the applicant's spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, (b) an illness of the applicant or of the applicant's spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, which actually prevents the applicant from filing on a timely basis, as certified by a licensed physician, or (c) the occurrence of a natural disaster, including, but not limited to, a flood, or the destruction of such applicant's resi- dence, barn or other farm building by wind, fire or flood. If the asses- sor is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to an agricultural assessment, the assessor shall approve the application and the land shall be assessed pursuant to this section. Not less than ten days prior to the date for hearing complaints in relation to assessments, the assessor shall mail to each applicant, who has included with the appli- cation at least one self-addressed, pre-paid envelope, a notice of the approval or denial of the application. Such notice shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance which shall indi- cate the manner in which the total assessed value is apportioned among the various portions of the property subject to agricultural assessment and those other portions of the property not eligible for agricultural assessment as determined for the tentative assessment roll and the latest final assessment roll. Failure to mail any such notice or failure of the owner to receive the same shall not prevent the levy, collection and enforcement of the payment of the taxes on such real property. S 3. This act shall take effect immediately.