Agricultural interests in Missouri sense that farmland values are wavering out of control, and many hope to convince state officials to refrain from mandating further increases.
To that end, Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, has filed legislation in the Missouri House that would prevent the State Tax Commission from enacting a standard that would hike agricultural land productivity values more than 2 percent above existing values. His bill also would prohibit the commission from raising the values 8 percent beyond the lowest value for the previous decade.
Black said at times the rates have gone up by as much as 20 to 25 percent.
“It’s a constant roller coaster,” he said, adding his effort is intended to “keep (ag land values) at a more level growth rate ... so we don’t have the up and down, up and down. It’s been in the works for a while.”
There are eight grades of agricultural land in Missouri, with each having a basis in productivity. Grade 1 is deemed as the best land, and grade 8 is rated as the poorest. By law, the commission assesses the land for its productivity every two years. Better grades carry higher productive values.
Black’s proposal also would preclude the commission from increasing the values of land in any county declared by the federal government to be affected by a natural disaster in the prior two years. In addition, it would place a lid on the values if there has been a substantial decrease in global agricultural product prices for the previous two years. That particular determination would come from a consensus among the state agriculture director and chairmen of the Senate and House agriculture committees.
Such fluctuations in the land market end up hurting a farmer’s livelihood, according to Black. The idea has become something of a recurring topic for lawmakers in recent sessions of the Missouri General Assembly.
“This might make it easier to budget,” he said.
Still performing his own research, Black first had thought his home of Livingston County would have the highest agricultural output in his statehouse district. However, he learned that Grundy County claims that title.
“I was really shocked,” he said.
Support still is being lined up, he added, with a request for a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee. An identical bill is making its way through the Senate, and that sponsor, Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Monticello, asked Black to file the House bill as a companion piece. Both men have farming backgrounds.
Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, also has studied the problem of unmanageable ag land values and believes the discussion is warranted.
“It looks like it keeps the raises moderate,” Hegeman said, adding it takes into account the pressure the costs place on the farming community.
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said he understands the motivation behind the legislation.
“Any attempt to protect farmers from rapidly increasing taxes in this time of unprofitable prices is welcome,” Hurst said. “Missouri farmers have benefited greatly from our system of productivity value real estate assessment, and I think these bills will preserve our productivity-based tax system for generations to come.”