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Legislature to consider how ag land values assessed

PIERRE -- This winter, the Legislature will consider changing South Dakota's system for setting the taxable values of agriculture property. Farm and ranch properties would be valued according to their actual use as cropland or non-cropland, rathe...

PIERRE - This winter, the Legislature will consider changing South Dakota’s system for setting the taxable values of agriculture property.

Farm and ranch properties would be valued according to their actual use as cropland or non-cropland, rather than on the productivity potential of their soils.

The Legislature’s continuing task force on agricultural assessments recommends the change. House Bill 1006 is already pre-filed for the legislative session that opens Tuesday.

But Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state Department of Revenue - which will follow the governor’s direction - haven’t signaled yet where they will stand.

“The administration has not yet taken a position on this bill. The governor is in the process of evaluating all pre-filed bills over the next couple of weeks,” governor’s spokesman Tony Venhuizen said.

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Two years ago the department’s assistant secretary, David Wiest, spoke against the change. Wiest told the task force that the productivity system should be given more time. The task force let the issue rest.

In October, the task force voted 9-2 to endorse the change to actual use. Six of the task force’s eight legislators have their names on the pre-filed bill.

However, four of those six are Democrats, which immediately raises a political red flag in a Legislature where Republicans hold big majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Its prime sponsor in the House is Rep. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo. Now 70, Peterson has spent much of his 12 years in the Legislature trying to get fairer tax treatment for crop-rated soils that are kept in grass because their topography is so problematic they can’t or shouldn’t be farmed.

“This change would not change the valuation of tillable land but will only decrease the value of grassland currently assessed as tillable,” Peterson said.

“The time to make this common-sense change is now when the overall assessed valuation is going to increase by close to 20 percent for the next two years. Do we want to preserve grassland with all its wildlife benefits?”

Related Topics: REAL ESTATEAGRICULTURE
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