Scott Co. cracks down on fake farms

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Minnesota county is going after landowners who are benefiting from agriculture tax breaks, but don’t use their property for farming.

Scott County expects about 100 rural properties will be removed from the Green Acres program, which holds down property values to help farmers close to metropolitan areas stay in business while land prices around them rise.

Scott County is the latest county to crackdown on landowners who aren’t really farming, but qualify for the generous tax breaks aimed at farmers. County Auditor Cindy Geis said that might include a landowner who plants hay but only to feed their horses.

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Geis said in one extreme case, annual property taxes will rise from about $5,000 to nearly $40,000. Many others will see an increase of $1,000 or more.

The Star Tribune reports Scott County began going down this road a few years ago, when officials weeded out people who have fewer than 10 acres, a basic requirement in state law to be considered a farmer.

People who raised organic or ethnic crops and livestock on small acreages were outraged because they considered themselves part of the ag economy.