Repealing Green Acres changes - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Repealing Green Acres changes


Altura, MN (KTTC) --

Green Acres isn't what it used to be. And no, we're not talking about the old television show. It's a state program, started back in the 60's, to protect farmers from paying high taxes on land that was growing in demand.

Back 2008, the state legislature tightened up the rules to that Green Acres program, and several southeast Minnesota farmers are not too happy about it. They say the changes are hurting them far more than any other farmers in the state.

"My land runs out this way here."

Bob Marg has been in the dairy farming business for about 35 years. He has learned how to manage a farm that's not all too flat.

"It's 100 and some acres of wood right on that side that runs all the way along the hillside."

This type of terrain is unique to Winona, Houston, and Fillmore counties. That's why when the rules to a critical state agricultural program changed, many farmers here didn't think lawmakers thought it through.

"There's a market value on the property and there's a Green Acres value on the property. The Green Acres is lower," explains Winona county tax assessor Steve Hacken.

The Green Acres program was set about 44 years ago to help farmers afford their land as property values kept rising during a Twin Cities residential boom. Farmers paid taxes on the lower Green Acres value.

Then in 2008, the state said the program will only be available for land that's actually tillable.

"I mean we'll have hundreds of acres of woods sitting in the middle of these farms. That seems to be the bigger problem down here," says Hacken.

It's a problem because these woodlands are in high demand by hunters, raising the market value to $2,500 an acre. The Green acres value was only $850, three times as less.

"I've made not quite enough on the woodland to keep up with the taxes for the woodland. So if they're going to raise the taxes that much more. Mine's already logged, where do you get the income from," asks Marg.

And Marg says he can't sell the woodland because it mixes with his needed pasture. But he until 2013 until his un-tillable land is bumped out of the program and Marg will have to pay 3 years of back-pay to the county for the value difference. So he's working with state lawmakers to repeal the 2008 changes.

Farmers to move their unproductive land to a rural reserve program. It's like Green Acres, but has a few more requirements. However that doesn't work for farmers like Bob Marg, who use their woodlands for grazing.

Also House tax chair, Representative Greg Davids, introduced a bill last week to repeal the Green Acres changes all together.

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