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Gov. Cuomo signs property tax relief for farmers into law

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill Tuesday that will cap the increase in agricultural property tax assessments at 2 percent per year.

Supported by numerous north country legislators, the new law replaces earlier legislation that capped increase in agricultural assessments at 10 percent per year. Advocates of the bill have highlighted the importance of decreasing property taxes for New York farmers, who now pay an average property tax of $38.41 per acre, according to statistics from Farm Credit East. That figure is about three times the national average of $12.34 per acre, and comprises about 15 percent of the average farmer’s net income.

“It goes without saying that farming is a land-intensive business, with one of the main costs for farmers being taxes on the land they utilize,” state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said in a release. Mrs. Ritchie, who serves as the Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman, co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, praised the legislation for drastically improving the previous formula. The formula used by the state to determine agricultural property tax assessments is based on crop sales data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But erratic weather often drives up crop prices, making the value of agricultural land also climb.

“Capping the rate of increase in agricultural assessment provides relief and predictability to north country farmers who already have to contend with fluctuating feed and crop prices,” Mrs. Russell said in a release. “The continual rise in agricultural property taxes has been a thorn in the side of farmers who are trying to grow their businesses and provide for their families.”

The New York Farm Bureau, which lobbied for approval of the legislation, called the bill “a boost for family farms” that will make it easier for them to financially stay afloat.

“It is a big step forward in reducing the increasing property tax burden that has limited our farmers’ ability to grow,” Dean Norton, bureau president, said in a release. “It will also help young and beginning farmers as they endeavor to provide locally grown food, fuel and fiber.”

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, also supported the legislation.

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