Journal of the San Juan Islands


Ag conservation land program actually lowers, not raises, tax breaks for farms | Letters

May 29, 2014 · Updated 4:50 PM

So far most of the articles about the proposed change to the Farm and Agricultural Conservation Land program have dwelt on the shift of the tax burden to the rest of the taxpayers.

This addresses the other side of the issue.

The parcels that have transferred into the program were farms that were previously classified as Open Space Farm. They were receiving about an 85 percent reduction in their taxes.

The most they can receive under the Farm and Agricultural Conservation Land program is 35 percent. This is a 50 percent increase in taxes and hardly a shift of the tax burden to others.

Other taxpayers should welcome the reclassification as it increases revenue and reduces the potential for conversion of farm lands to other uses inconsistent with our rural nature.

The change from 10 years to 20 years is actually a plus for the rest of the taxpayers. At the end of the ten years, the property must be returned to farming or grant a conservation easement. Either of these choices would result in a reduction of tax revenue to the county.

The articles also imply that there will be many seeking to reduce their taxes by applying for this program. This program is not open to just anyone.

RCW 84.34 says that the land must have been previously in Open Space – Farm or must be traditional farmland that has a high potential for returning to commercial agriculture.

James Bergquist/Stuart Island


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