St. Louis Public Radio News
8:36 am
Mon December 21, 2009

Rural lawmaker fights farmland tax plan

St. Louis – A state lawmaker from rural Missouri is fighting a plan to change the way farmland is valued.

Last week the state tax commission proposed raising the productive value of Missouri's best ground. Productive value is a figure used to calculate property taxes. The plan also calls for lowering the value of less desirable land.

But Republican State Representative Casey Guernsey of northwestern Missouri says in many cases revaluation will mean higher taxes for farmers at a time when they can least afford it. Guernsey said those costs could be passed on to consumers.

"As citizens of Missouri, we enjoy some of the cheapest food in the world," Guernsey said. "And we've got to keep it that way. That's to the benefit of everyone in Missouri, whether you're in a rural community or an urban community."

Guernsey wants his fellow lawmakers to reject the plan when the legislative session begins in two weeks. But state tax commission chair Bruce Davis, who's also a Republican, said land values need to be updated.

Davis says farmland values have not changed since 1995, even though farmers are earning more from that land because of higher crop prices.

"During the past four years, the net operating income for farmers who are dealing predominantly with grain has been quite good," Davis said.

Davis said rising fuel and fertilizer costs have been accounted for in the new tax formula, and all the money collected in communities where farm property taxes would rise will stay in those communities.