28 February 2012: From The Salt Lake Tribune: Urban farmers soon could be getting a big property tax break, courtesy of a bill cruising through the Utah Legislature.
SB122 would allow small farmers in urban areas to be taxed just like their green-belt peers in rural Utah.
Currently, farmers in urban areas must pay taxes for the “highest and best use” of the land, as if it were developed into business or residential property, according to sponsor Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R – Sandy. The rules also offer the lower green-belt tax rate only to farms of 5 acres or more.
But if the bill passes, farms of two to five acres would qualify for the green-belt-level tax — so long as farmers meet certain production levels and prove they are selling food for a profit.
Niederhauser thinks the bill is necessary to protect open urban green space. He has seen several small-plot farmers in his east-side neighborhood forced to sell their property for development in recent years because they cannot turn a profit with the higher tax burden.
“If we can get an incentive for people to keep those [small parcels], it’s not just producing food,” Niederhauser said. “It’s also a great benefit for their community, for them to see farming going on.”
Many Utah kids grow up without understanding that the chicken on their dinner plate comes from an actual bird, and not from the grocery store, said Sterling Brown of the Utah Farm Bureau, which backs the bill.
“So many people today have grown up being removed from a farm or a ranch,” Brown said. “They don’t clearly understand where their food and fiber come from.”
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