Mayor Kawakami signed Bill No. 2875 that will change the way the county taxes agricultural land. This bill will repeal the county’s current agricultural dedication program and enact a comprehensive revision, which proponents hope will improve the incentive system for agriculture.
It’s been stated that there are 1,200 special ag dedications throughout the county, spanning 156,000 acres providing over $8 million annually in tax relief to the agriculture industry and those who own property where agriculture occurs. The purpose of this bill is to incentivize farming, and to try and reduce the abuse of our agricultural dedication program. Plus reducing the administrative burden for both the farmers and for the county.
Presently, ag land is assessed based on a complicated system of soil rates, which leads to pasture land being taxed at a lower rate than diversified ag land. With the new system in place, taxes on land subject to the new agricultural dedication will be assessed at 5% of their fair market value, so-long-as they are used for diversified ag or ranching. In other words, owners with loads of pasture land, their tax will go up vs owners with diversified ag land their bill will go down. This dedication will still provide a substantial 95% discount on the tax bills of those who own land where agriculture occurs.
Any current dedications will remain valid until their originally approved dedication period ends, unless they are canceled. Any farms within the Urban State Land Use District are not eligible for the program unless the county zoning is agriculture or open.
All agricultural dedications, under the new program, will be for a five-year period rather than 10-or 20-year periods, and farmers won’t be penalized with rollback taxes if a dedication is canceled. Also, farmers will no longer need to record their dedication with the state Board of Conveyance, and will not require all owners of properties with multiple owners to sign the petition.
With this new bill, the County hopes to improve Kaua’i’s agriculture and promote ag owners to produce food on their land. In turn, this will further support sustainability on our island now and for future generations.
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Sean Ahearn & Jim Karlovsky