To farm or not to farm

To farm or not to farm?  It’s a question of costs versus profits.

Florida’s Green Belt Law allows agriculture to use land whose property tax is a fraction of real market value. The removal of the benefit could be the difference between profit and loss. Some net profit margins per acre are as low as $500. To add an additional $1,000 per acre property tax would prohibit the use of that land for an agricultural operation. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

The journey to a lower land tax for an ag use begins with Article VII of the Constitution of the State of Florida, which states, “Section 4 Taxation: Agricultural land may be classified by general law and assessed solely on the basis of character or use.”

So, who is more entitled to an ag tax benefit, a fourth-generation farmer or an astronaut?  Neither; the Constitution doesn’t discriminate. The key words are “solely” and “character or use.”

“Solely” means: Don’t think about anything else. “Use” means: What are you doing with the land, the actual physical use of the soil which is receiving the tax benefit? Is it a real ag use, not a fake one?

The Constitution leaves to the Legislature the right to set parameters, and there are numerous judicial decisions interpreting the law, which we will discuss in the next two articles.

I’ve spent four decades discussing the Florida Constitution and laws about ag property tax benefits with Circuit judges up through the Florida Supreme Court.  This subject just looks dry. Remember, it’s your livelihood.

CREDITS

column by MICHAEL MARTIN

BIO: Michael Martin of Martin Law Office in Lakeland specializes in agriculture and environmental legal representation.  A native of Polk County, Mike attended college at Sewanee in Tennessee, before obtaining a doctorate in law from the University of Florida. He has tried numerous cases nationwide since that time. [/emember_protected]