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75 Action Items Found
Enact legislation that provides a tax credit for agricultural buildings, exempting new or reconstructed agricultural buildings essential to a farm operation from local property taxes for a period of 10 years, provided the building remains in agricultural use.
Expand current law that allows towns to vote to waive excise tax on farm animals and equipment to include incorporated farming operations.
Enact legislation to exempt farmland eligible for Chapter 61A from municipal storm or floodwater fees.
To address concerns over potential loss of revenue to rural communities, explore ways to provide financial incentives to communities that enact farm-friendly zoning and tax policies, including through the Baker Administration’s Commonwealth Compact initiative.
Modify Chapter 61A to direct the Farmland Valuation Advisory Commission to guide and limit municipalities setting their own farmland values, to ensure that values are based on use value, not sales value. The University of Massachusetts’ Department of Resource Economics should provide increased resources and expertise to the Farmland Valuation Advisory Committee in evaluating and updating farmland values across the Commonwealth.
Develop 61A valuation for forestland where trees are tapped for maple products.
Expand “best practices” in Baker Administration’s Community Compact initiative to include zoning that allows ancillary commercial activities on farm properties, including accessory apartments.
Train Agriculture and Conservation Commissions on actions farmers may take under current law to manage on and off-farm beaver activity to avoid property damage. If needed, consider changes to state law to allow farmers recourse in the event of off-farm beaver activity that is damaging a farm’s crops or farmland.
Clarify through statute that municipalities may develop regional Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs, as has been suggested in versions of state zoning reform legislation.
Fully expend existing bond authorizations provided for the APR Program in the 2008 and 2014 Environmental Bond by 2018, and establish an annual bond cap that allows maximum leveraging of federal farmland protection funds. Increase funding for the APR Program in the next Environmental Bond consistent with goals set in the Farmland Action Plan. See Recommendation 2.1.
Support revisions to the Community Preservation Act that will provide additional funding to the Trust. Encourage communities to adopt the CPA, which provides funding streams for open space protection (including agricultural land) and affordable housing, as well as recreation and historic preservation.
Increase the state conservation tax credit, currently at $2 million annually, to $5 million annually, and improve its use with the APR Program.
Change state law or policy to enable state agencies to use leases longer than the current 5-year maximum licenses on state-owned land.
Change state law to allow state agencies to retain and reinvest the revenues they receive from leasing farmland to farmers. Develop guidelines around lease fees.
Change state law to give town Agricultural Commissions, at a town’s discretion, authority to manage and lease suitable town-owned land for agricultural use. Train Agricultural Commissions on how to work with town land managers to make suitable town-owned land available for leasing, and on where to find examples of model farm leases.
Ensure that statewide zoning reform reflects the concerns of the agricultural community over potential loss of value and equity.
Consider state legislation to enable communities to further reduce property taxes on farmland in exchange for term easements.
Enact pending legislation to ensure no net loss of land protected under Article 97 of the state constitution.
Expand and strengthen Executive Order 193 and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). Convene a working group to develop recommendations for doing so, including how to address renewable alternative energy (e.g. solar) development on agricultural land.
Enact legislation to modify state estate tax to allow farmland to be valued according to its current use.