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Bills take different approaches to Green Acres action

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

ST. PAUL — The House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Division sent two bills out of committee Jan. 27.

One bill, HF10, sponsored by Rep. Al Doty, DFL-Royalton, repeals the changes made to Green Acres last year. The second bill, HF217, sponsored by Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Mora, grandfathers everybody who was in Green Acres into the program and creates Green Acres II for everybody going forward. The rules don’t overlap.

The bills were crafted using the input given during more than two hours of testimony in the committee on Jan. 21.

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Four bills repealing the law changes made last year were heard before the committee Jan. 27, along with five bills to modify the changes made last week.

Committee chairman Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said that if anything happens to either HF217 or HF10, the committee has a several other bills it can send out.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, reflected on the uproar caused by the changes. The state is facing a $5 billion to $7 billion projected budget deficit, but all the calls he is getting are about Green Acres, he said.

Doty told of standing in line at the assessor’s office with his father-in-law and brother-in-law after the changes became known.

"The only option that’s been passed onto me by my constituents is get rid of it," Doty said. His bill would do just that, and it’s headed to the tax committee.

Faust’s bill is headed to the environment and natural resources committee chaired by Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley.

The Faust bill says that any real estate that is 10 acres or more or a nursery or greenhouse and qualifies for agricultural homestead is eligible for Green Acres if the property is primarily used for agriculture and produced $1,000 worth of agricultural products in the previous year.

The bill goes on to say that class 2b acreage must be less than half of the total acreage enrolled. Class 2b is rural vacant land. It has a net class rate of 1 percent of market value unless it is part of an agricultural homestead or it qualifies as managed forest land.

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The Senate ag committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, also put Green Acres on the fast track. Green Acres legislation will be discussed Feb. 3, Vickerman said. The committee took testimony on the bill Jan. 29.

Tom May, Hennepin County assessor, spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Association of Assessing Officers. He said the association supports a complete grandfather of properties already in Green Acres and a three-year payback as opposed to a seven-year payback.

The association also favors allowing transfers to children, spouses or estate plans without triggering the payback. May said land enrolled in federal and state conservation programs should be allowed to remain in Green Acres.

Jim Simpson of Scandia testified that the changes made last year provide him with incentive to plow every square inch of his property.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, compared the Green Acres debate to what happened to mom-and-pop resorts when lakeshore property became in high demand. The small resort owners were taxed off their property, leaving the state with 900 resorts compared to 3,600. He said he looks forward to continued debate on Green Acres.

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