BOSTON — Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF’s) Young Farmer and Rancher Committee (YF&R) brought their livestock to the Boston Common on June 8 to answer legislators’ and consumers’ questions about the care and management of livestock.
During these interactions, farmers and MFBF staff discussed bills of importance that they are supporting this session. Those bills included:
HB 3915 – An Act to establish estate tax valuation for farms
- Massachusetts has an estate tax that is levied when the value of an inherited estate exceeds$1 million. The estate tax is based on the “highest and best use” of the land. For farmland this istypically its development value, rather than its agricultural value.
- This is a challenge for many inheriting farmland who want to continue to farm the land rather thandevelop it. Often, they do not have cash on hand to pay the estate tax and are forced to sell some orall the land to do so. This is contrary to the intent of several state laws and programs intended topreserve farmland.
- This bill would calculate the value of the farmland for estate tax purposes at its agricultural value. If the land is developed within 10 years, the owner would be responsible for back-taxes.
- Currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means and is a component of the HB 4438 (Environmental Bond Bill).
HB 3908 – An Act relative to the dairy farm tax credit
- Dairy farming in New England is challenging financially, with the cost of producing milk sometimesexceeding the price paid to dairy farmers. The price paid to these farmers is dictated by federal programs.
- Under Massachusetts law, dairy farmers are allowed a refundable tax credit for periods of time whenthe cost of production exceeds the price of milk.
- The law currently limits the total amount allocated annually toward the credit to $4 million.
- Unfortunately, this has been insufficient. This bill would increase the limit to $8 million.
- Currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means. The House Budget also includes a provision which would increase the cap to $6 million.
APR Reform – Farm Bureau supports Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) but has serious concerns about the administration of the program by Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR). A recent survey of APR owners shows that a third of respondents are concerned with how the program is run. Of particular concern are increasing restrictions put on APR properties – few of which are detailed in the enabling legislation. Many APR owners feel that the restrictions conflict with the ability of a farm to be viable in the current marketplace. Farm Bureau is looking for reforms, which:
- Provide adequate checks and balances on regulations and policies adopted by DAR to ensure thatAPR owners are treated fairly; and
- Ensure that policies and regulations are debated in an open and transparent setting.
- The Senate Budget, via an amendment offered by Senator Rodrigues, currently has language which would achieve these goals.
“For six years our YF&R committee has planned, organization and brought this event to fruition,” said MFBF President Mark Amato, who manages Verrill Farm in Concord, Massachusetts. “Their efforts to connect with consumers and legislators alike is remarkable. I want to commend them for this event and thank all the legislators who attended.”
Ice cream was served during the day and was provided by Davidian Bros Farm in Northborough.
To learn more about MFBF’s policy priorities, please visit:
–Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation
For more articles out of New England, click here.