Questions arise about SD tax policy as crop land increasesSome want financial relief in areas where trees kept in place.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Trees and shelter belts are being ripped out in parts of eastern South Dakota, as land owners seek bigger yields of crops from their properties.
Some current and past public officials would like to see tax policy changed to offer some financial relief on crop-soil lands where trees are kept in place.
They brought those concerns this week to the meeting of the Legislature’s advisory task force on agricultural land assessment.
“There are still some 10-acre tree claims down in my area and I’d like to see them preserved,” former lawmaker Jim Peterson of Revillo said.
Peterson is a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives this fall. He previously spent a total of 10 years in the House and the Senate before retiring, temporarily, in 2010.
He currently serves on the assessments task force and the South Dakota Lottery Commission.
Spink County Commission member Jeff Albrecht of Doland told the task force Monday that high demand and high prices have led farmers to work more ground.
“You look around Spink County and see acres and acres of land torn up to put crop in,” he said.
Albrecht noted that the commission two years ago approved a resolution supporting a change in assessments practice so that actual use would replace highest and best use. He said the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners took a similar stance with a statewide resolution.
Sen. Larry Rhoden, the task force’s chairman, said Monday marked the first time he’s heard that keeping trees was a concern.
Rhoden, R-Union Center, agreed that agricultural practices are changing. He said he’s seeing more crops being planted farther west of the Missouri River in what previously was grazing country.
Lyle Perman, a producer from the Lowry area of Walworth County, said beef cows dropped by some 200,000 from January 2001 to January 2012.
That was a decrease of approximately 10 percent, which Perman linked to changing land uses.
He said the soils-rating system that is the starting point used by county directors of equalization for assessing land values is a tax policy that is leading some producers to shift more ground into crops.
The system is based on a parcel’s potential to produce.
Perman said many people don’t understand there are reductions they can receive through existing law, such as land that has been inundated by flooding for three years. He said he supports converting to actual use of land as the basis for setting assessments.