Agricultural Assessment and Agricultural Districts What are the Differences?
We often get phone calls from landowners with questions about Ag Assessment and Ag Districts. These two programs are designed to help keep farmland in viable, commercial agricultural production, but they work very differently. One program provides financial incentives for agricultural use, through tax relief. The other provides protections from regulations and nuisance law-suits for landowners who are engaged in activities that are associated with agricultural production.
The Agricultural Assessment Program, established under the Agriculture & Markets Law (AML) Article 25-AA § 305, allows active farmland to receive a reduced assessment for property tax purposes – resulting in a partial exemption from real property taxes. Farmland qualifying for this reduction in assessed value does not have to be enrolled in an Agricultural District. Any owner of at least seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $10,000 annually, or any owner of less than seven acres of land which produces a minimum of $50,000 annually, on average in the preceding two years, from the sale of crops, agri-tourism events, beekeeping, livestock, or livestock products, riding academy or from a commercial equine operation, is eligible to receive an agricultural assessment. The program only applies to the land, not buildings or homesteads.
The Agricultural Assessment Program establishes a ceiling value for taxable assessments on eligible farmland. The local assessor is provided with State Certified ceiling values every year. Any assessed value which exceeds the agricultural assessment is exempt from Real Property taxation. Landowners must file an application annually, usually by March 1, with the local assessor to be considered for the Agricultural Assessment Program. Failure to file the application on time will result in denial of the exemption.
An agricultural district is a geographic area which consists of predominantly viable agricultural land. Districts may include land that is actively farmed, idle, forested, as well as land for residential and commercial uses. The Agricultural District Program, was established under AML § 303. It provides agricultural landowners a number of benefits and protections not associated with property tax relief, which encourage farmers to continue farming.
The Agricultural District Law protects farm operations within an agricultural district from the enactment and administration of unreasonably restrictive local regulations unless it can be shown that public health or safety is threatened. Under AML § 308, known as the ‘Right to Farm’ law, if a question or dispute arises regarding farm practices that may threaten public health or safety, an opinion can be requested of the Commissioner of NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets as to whether or not sound agricultural practices are being followed. Enrollment in an Agricultural District does not automatically qualify the property for the Agricultural Assessment Program.
For more information on NYS Ag Assessment, see the New York State Department of Revenue site: http://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/assess/valuation/agindex.htm
For more information on NYS Ag District Program, see the New York State Department of Ag and Markets site: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/agdistricts.html
Differences at a Glance
Agricultural Assessment Program
- Provides property tax reduction on farmland
- Property does not have to be in an agricultural district to qualify
- Owner must file application annually with local assessor; usually no later than March 1
- Minimum 7 acres in active farm production and proof of minimum $10,000 gross annual income from farming
- If less than 7 acres, $50,000 gross income minimum
- Property annually committed to agricultural use for minimum of 8 years if not in an agricultural district; 5 years if in an agricultural district
- Property subject to payback of saved property tax dollars if land is converted to non-agricultural use within committed period and possible penalty if there is a failure to notify the assessor of the conversion within 90 days.
- Land in agricultural production and rented to farmer may qualify
- Eligibility determined by local assessor based upon State law specifications
- Assessed agricultural value based upon State certified land classifications
Agricultural District Program
- Provides certain protections for agricultural land (does not include a tax reduction)
- Land may or may not qualify for Agricultural Assessment Program
- Districts are reviewed every eight years
- Owner must apply for Ag District designation during established review period
- Annual window for inclusion available for certain types of agricultural land
- All applications for annual inclusion must be filed between during the annual window in the County. Contact the County Soil and Water Conservation office or Cornell Cooperative Extension for information on application process.
- Applications reviewed by the County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and subject to approval of County Legislature and State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets
Lauri Taylor, District Manager
Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District
(845) 878-7918 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Johnson, Director
Putnam County Real Property Tax Services Agency
(845) 808-1030 or email@example.com