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Bills would give tax credit to farmers for riparian land

Companion bills before the Minnesota Legislature that would shift waterfront agricultural property from the tax rolls to tax credits for farmers have been set aside for possible inclusion in an all-encompassing tax omnibus bill.

The riparian land included a state-mandated buffer zone created in 2015 impacts up to 50 feet of dry land from the shoreline. The 2015 bill’s goal was to protect waterways from sediment and nutrients that were negatively impacting water quality.

While it may be doing just that, farmers say they’re being prevented from working profitable land and being taxed for it, as well.

“It was not brought up as a requirement with the law when it was passed originally, but the concerns have always been voiced about what happens with land that was taken out of production to be put into buffers,” said Amber Hanson Glaeser, director of public policy for the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

The group supports the change and the bills’ focus “primarily around the taxable value of the land placed in buffers,” Hanson Glaeser said.

This year’s bills, Senate File 251 and House File 508, allow farmers to ask local soil and water conservation district officials to identify land that is meeting requirements of the 2015 buffer zone. If OK’d, that information would be forwarded to the county assessor, and the farmer’s taxes adjusted accordingly.

If approved, property taxes payable in 2022 would be impacted.

SF251 was originally assigned to the Senate’s Taxes Committee. It is sponsored by Sens. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake; Michael Goggin, R-Red Wing; Andrew Lang, R-Olivia; and Mark Koran, R-North Branch.

The companion bill in the House was also assigned to Taxes. It now sits in the Property Tax Division. That version is sponsored by Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore.

A 2019 bill to reimburse farmers for their already-paid taxes was laid aside and withered after committee hearings.

And in 2018, a state board proposed hefty fines by the foot for offenders. Vocal opposition led supporters to drop it.