Tax

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, December 07th, 2017

Decisions announced today by the Ohio Supreme Court will allow landowners to challenge Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) land values established by Ohio’s tax commissioner by appealing the values to the Board of Tax Appeals.

Twin rulings in cases filed by a group of owners of woodland enrolled in CAUV, Adams v. Testa, clarify that when the tax commissioner develops tables that propose CAUV values for different types of farmland, holds a public hearing on the values and adopts the final values by journal entry, the tax commissioner’s actions constitute a “final determination” that a landowner may immediately appeal to the Board of Tax Appeals. The Board of Tax Appeals had argued that the adoption of values is not a final determination and therefore is not one that a landowner may appeal to the Board.

The tax commissioner forwards the CAUV tables to the county auditors, who must use the values for a three year period. An inability to appeal the values when established by the tax commissioner would mean that a landowner must wait until individual CAUV tax values are calculated by the county auditor, who relies upon the tax commissioner’s values to calculate the county values. As a result of today’s decision, landowners may appeal the values as soon as the tax commissioner releases them.

The landowners also claimed that the process and rules for establishing the CAUV values are unreasonable and not legal. However, the Court rejected those claims.

For an excellent summary of the Adams v. Testa cases by Court News Ohio, follow this link.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, July 03rd, 2017

Written by Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Governor Kasich signed HB 49 on June 30, 2017, otherwise known as Ohio’s Operating Budget. In addition to setting the budget for various agencies, HB 49 changes how farmland is valued under Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Value program. HB 49 changes Ohio Revised Code Sec. 5715.01. The overall effect of the changes will likely be a downward trend in property tax valuation for Ohio farmers.

The budget bill prescribes the method for determining CAUV value for land devoted to agricultural use. The law requires appraisal methods to reflect and consider the following:

  • standard and modern appraisal techniques that take into consideration the productivity of the soil under normal management practices;
  • typical cropping and land use patterns;
  • the average price patterns of the crops and products produced;
  • typical production costs to determine the net income potential to be capitalized; and
  • other pertinent factors.

Under HB 49, the Tax Commissioner must annually determine and announce the capitalization rate used to compute CAUV values. The bill directs the Tax Commissioner to use standard and modern appraisal techniques in determining the land capitalization rate to be applied to the net income potential from agricultural use. In determining this yearly rate, the Commissioner must use an equity yield rate equal to the greater of the average of the total rates of return on farm equity for the last 25 years (as published by USDA), or the loan interest rate the Commissioner uses for that year to calculate the capitalization rate. The Tax Commissioner is required to assume that the holding period for agricultural land is twenty-five years for computing buildup of equity or appreciation with respect to that land.

HB 49 requires that land used in conservation programs be valued at the lowest soil productivity type. However, if land devoted to a conservation program ceases to be used for conservation purposes within three years of certification, the land will be valued at its actual soil type for all preceding years.

The Tax Commissioner must publish an annual report of CAUV values that can be sorted by county and by school district. The changes to CAUV begin in 2017, starting with counties undergoing reappraisal for the 2017 tax year. The budget bill, as signed by the Governor, is here—see page 2145 of that document for the changes to CAUV.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, June 26th, 2017

Written by Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Two separate bills concerning CAUV continue to be debated in the Ohio Legislature: Senate Bill 36 and House Bill 49. Ohioans may see changes to the CAUV program, if either bill passes the Legislature. Both bills aim to address rising CAUV rates for Ohio farmers. SB 36 changes the CAUV formula, making alterations to the capitalization rate and addressing the rate used for conservation land values. SB 36 passed in the Senate and is under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee. The other bill that would address CAUV values—HB 49, is Ohio’s bi-annual budget bill. HB 49 similarly addresses Ohio’s rising CAUV values through proposed changes to the CAUV capitalization rate.

The difference between the two bills is that the budget bill will undoubtedly pass. That being said, the budget bill’s CAUV provisions may be cut from the final version.  On the other hand, there is no guarantee that the House will pass SB 36. There are several scenarios that may occur regarding the two CAUV bills in the Ohio Legislature.

Scenario #1: HB 49 (the Budget Bill) Passes with CAUV Provisions Included

In an earlier post, we explained  HB 49’s proposed changes to the CAUV program. HB 49 proposes changes to the CAUV program similar to those proposed in the standalone CAUV bill, SB 36. Although HB 49 currently contains amendments to the CAUV program, it is subject to change.

Passing a budget bill is a long and complex process.  Budget bills must start in the Ohio House of Representatives. The main purpose of a budget bill is to set the state’s operating budget, but such a bill may also include changes to Ohio laws. After the House passes a budget bill, the bill goes to the Ohio Senate. The Senate can pass the bill as written by the House, or the Senate may amend the bill and send their amended version back to the House.

The Senate passed their amended version of HB 49 on June 21. However, the House did not agree with the amendments. Therefore, the Senate and the House will soon hold a conference committee where both houses will meet and settle the differences between the two bills. Ohio’s budget is based on a fiscal year which ends on June 30. If passed, a new budget will go into effect July 1, 2017. Ohioans may soon learn if the state’s budget bill will enact changes to the CAUV program.

Scenario #2: SB 36 Passes and Changes the CAUV Program

Ohioans will soon find out if changes to the CAUV formula will be passed as part of HB 49. However, the CAUV provisions of HB 49 could still be removed before the bill passes. If CAUV changes are not passed via the budget bill, the CAUV formula could still be altered via SB 36.

SB 36 recently passed the Ohio Senate and is currently under consideration by the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would make changes to Ohio’s CAUV formula, including the capitalization rate calculation and the rate used for calculating the value of conservation lands. For more information on SB 36, see our earlier blog post here.

The Ohio House can consider SB 36 until the end of the legislative session. The current legislative session ends on December 31, 2018. The House Ways and Means Committee may vote on SB 36 before the end of the session, or the bill could expire if it does not leave the committee before the end of the session.

The Legislature will soon meet in a conference committee to try and reach a consensus on the budget bill. HB 49 could pass as written or in an amended form that does not include any changes to CAUV. SB 36 may pass as written or amended as well. Conversely, it is plausible that neither bill could pass.  

Read S.B. 36 as amended here.  The Legislative Service Commission’s summary of the bill is here. The most recent version of HB 49, as amended by the Senate, is here.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Ohio's Senate has settled on its solution for fixing Ohio's CAUV formula. The Senate unanimously passed S.B. 36  yesterday after the Senate Ways and Means Committee adopted two amendments to the bill.  The legislation aims to stem recent increases in property taxes for farmland enrolled in Ohio's Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program.   The Senate's bill will ensure that the CAUV formula "sticks to valuing farmland based on agricultural production," stated the bill's sponsor, Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay). 

In addition to including new factors in the CAUV formula,  making changes to the capitalization rate calculation and addressing rates used for conservation lands (explained in detail in our earlier post on S.B. 36), the bill passed by the Senate yesterday contained two new provisions:

  • A three year phase-in of the changes to the CAUV formula, which would begin the first tax year after 2016 in which a county's sexennial appraisal or triennial update occurs.  The purpose of the phase-in is to reduce the financial impact of lowered property valuations on school districts.
  • Replacement of the seven year rolling average determination of the equity yield rate with an equity yield rate that equals the 25-year average of the "total rate of return on farm equity" determined by the United States Department of Agriculture but that cannot exceed the loan interest rate used in the debt factor of the capitalization rate computation.

Last week, Ohio's House passed legislation containing different solutions for revising the CAUV program in H.B. 49 (see our summary of H.B. 49 here).  Senate leaders yesterday indicated a willingness to work with the House to resolve the differences between the two bills.  H.B. 49 is now before the Senate Finance Committee.

Read S.B. 36 as amended here.  The Legislative Service Commmission's summary of the bill is here.

Posted In: Tax
Tags: cauv, agricultural tax law, real property tax
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By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Written by Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Update:  The House passed H.B. 49 on May 2, 2017.

The Ohio legislature continues to consider revising the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) law that affects taxation of agricultural land. However, the latest legislative discussions are not about Senate Bill 36, introduced by Senator Cliff Hite on February 7, 2017 (read more about that bill here).  Instead, current debate centers on a new proposal in House Bill 49, Ohio’s “budget bill.”   The House Finance Committee is currently considering that bill.

The budget bill proposal would require the equity yield rate used in the CAUV capitalization rate to equal the greater of either the 25 year average of the total rate of return on farm equity published by the USDA or the loan interest rate. The capitalization rate is used to calculate a valuation from an annual profit for an average Ohio farm, considering only agricultural factors.  The proposal would establish a holding period of 25 years for calculating equity build-up and land value appreciation in the formula.  Addressing concerns about taxation amounts on land in conservation programs, the bill also would place a ceiling on the taxable value of CAUV land used for conservation purposes by requiring the land to be valued as though it included the least productive soil.  

The proposed changes to the CAUV program would be phased in over two reassessment update cycles.  The bill would also reconcile the proposed changes with the current formula by specifying that during the first three-year cycle in each county (beginning with tax year 2017), the tax value of CAUV land would include one half of the difference between its value under the new versus the old formula.

Time may soon tell whether Ohio lawmakers will address the agricultural community’s concerns about property tax increases under the current CAUV formula and if so, whether it will prefer the House’s budget bill or the Senate’s proposal.  The budget bill is available here--see page 652 of that document for the suggested changes to CAUV.  The Senate’s bill, which has received four hearings before the Senate Ways and Means Committee but still remains in committee, is available here.

Posted In: Property, Tax
Tags: cauv, current agricultural use valuation
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By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, February 08th, 2017

Written by:  Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The Ohio Legislature is once again considering a bill regarding Ohio’s current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. CAUV permits land to be valued at its agricultural value rather than the land’s market or “highest and best use” value. Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) introduced SB 36 on February 7, 2017. The bill would alter the capitalization rate used to calculate agricultural land value and the valuation of land used for conservation practices or programs. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.  

The content of SB 36 closely mirrors the language of a bill meant to address CAUV from the last legislative session: SB 246. Introduced during the 131st General Assembly, SB 246 failed to pass into law. SB 246 proposed alterations to the CAUV formula which are identical to those proposed by the current bill: SB 36. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s report on SB 246, the bill would have proposed changes that would have led to a “downward effect on the taxable value of CAUV farmland.” The likely effect for Ohio farmers enrolled in CAUV would have been a lower tax bill.

Due to the similarity between the two bills, the potential impacts of SB 36 on the CAUV program will likely be comparable to those of the previous bill. The proposed adjustment of the capitalization rate is likely to reduce the tax bill for farmers enrolled in CAUV. More specifically, the bill proposes several changes to the CAUV formula:

  • States additional factors to include in the rules that prescribe CAUV calculation methods. Currently, the rules must consider the productivity of the soil under normal management practices, the average price patterns of the crops and products produced to determine the income potential to be capitalized and the market value of the land for agricultural use. The proposed legislation adds two new factors: typical cropping and land use patterns and typical production costs.
  • Clarifies that when determining the capitalization rate used in the CAUV formula, the tax commissioner cannot use a method that includes the buildup of equity or appreciation.
  • Requires the tax commissioner to add a tax additur to the overall capitalization rate, and that the sum of the capitalization rate and tax additur “shall represent as nearly as possible the rate of return a prudent investor would expect from an average or typical farm in this state considering only agricultural factors.”
  • Requires the commissioner to annually determine the overall capitalization rate, tax additur, agricultural land capitalization rate and the individual components used in computing those amounts and to publish the amounts with the annual publication of the per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type.

To remove disincentives for landowners who engage in conservation practices yet pay CAUV taxes at the same rate as if the land was in production, the proposed legislation:

  • Requires that the land in conservation practices or devoted to a land retirement or conservation program as of the first day of a tax year be valued at the lowest valued of all soil types listed in the tax commissioner’s annual publication of per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type in the state.
  • Provides for recalculation of the CAUV rate if the land ceases to be used for conservation within three years of its original certification for the reduced rate, and requires the auditor to levy a charge for the difference on the landowner who ceased the conservation practice or participation in the conservation program.

To read SB 36, visit this page. For more information on previous CAUV bills, see our previous blog post

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Written by:  Ellen Essman and Chris Hogan, Law Fellows, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Part Two

Below is the second of our two-part series regarding bills related to agriculture that failed to pass during Ohio’s 2015-2016 legislative session.

Animal Welfare

Requirements for Humane Society Agents and House Bill 45

House Bill 45 was introduced February 10, 2015 and would have amended existing law to impose additional requirements upon those people hoping to be appointed as humane society agents.  A number of changes and additions would have been implemented through the passage of HB 45.  The bulk of the proposed legislation concerned training for humane society agents and filing evidence of completing that training with the county recorder.  HB 45 would have required county recorders to record “[p]roof of successful completion of training by humane society agents,” as well as “notices of revocation of agents’ appointment” in the official records (emphasis added).  According to the bill, proof of completion of training would have had to been signed by the CEO of the organization that provided training, the chief officer of the county humane society, and either the mayor or probate judge in the county.

House Bill 45 was referred to the Local Government Committee on February 11, 2015.  No further action was taken, rendering the proposed legislation dead when the 131st General Assembly ended.  

To read HB 45, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 45 is available here.

Tethering Animals and House Bill 94

House Bill 94 was introduced March 2, 2015 and would have enacted language that would have made it illegal to negligently tether an animal outside in certain situations. The bill would have imposed time limits on tethering and a prohibition on tethering animals in certain weather conditions.  Furthermore, a prohibition on tethering would have been imposed if the tethers were unsafe, under a certain length, allowed the animal to touch fences or cross property lines, or were inappropriate for the animal’s size.  HB 94 also would have prohibited tethering if the surrounding area was unsanitary, or if the owner of the premises was not present.  Finally, the bill would have amended the current law to include punishment for violating the proposed tethering language.  The bill, however, was referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and afterwards, no action was taken on it. 

To read HB 94, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 94 is available here.

Animal Abusers and House Bill 177

 House Bill 177 was introduced on April 28, 2015.  HB 177 would have required people who either were “convicted of or pleaded guilty to” a number of animal abuse violations to submit certain information, along with a fee, to the Attorney General within 30 days of “being convicted or pleading guilty.” HB 177 also tasked the Attorney General with creating and keeping a registry of animal abuse violators.

Law enforcement officers, humane society agents, and dog wardens would have been responsible for notifying the Attorney General of animal abuse violations. Animal shelters would have been prohibited from allowing a person on the registry from adopting a dog, cat, or any animal kept in a home. 

The bill was referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on May 5, 2015, where no further action was taken.

To read HB 177, visit this page.

Sale of Dogs and House Bill 573

House Bill 573 was introduced on May 17, 2016.  This bill focused on the sale of dogs both from pet stores and from other entities.   The bill would have added or changed a number of definitions in the Ohio Revised Code.  Most notably, the law would have made it illegal for a pet store to “negligently…offer for sale” or otherwise “transfer” a dog unless it came from an animal rescue, an animal shelter, a humane society, a dog retailer, or a qualified breeder, all of which were defined elsewhere in the bill. 

Additionally, according to HB 573, both dog retailers and pet stores would have been forbidden from selling or otherwise transferring a dog under a number of conditions.  Under the bill, they could not have sold dogs less than eight weeks old, dogs that had not been inspected by a veterinarian, and dogs without a microchip, among other conditions. However, none of these requirements would have been applicable to a dog sold or otherwise “transferred from the premises where the dog was bred and reared.” Finally, the bill included language stating that it would preempt local laws regulating the sale of dogs.  House Bill 573 was referred to the Finance Committee on May 23, 2016 and no further action was taken. 

To read HB 573, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 573 is available here.

Natural Resources

Invasive Species and House Bill 396

House Bill 396 was introduced on November 16, 2015.  This bill dealt with restricting and prohibiting certain species in Ohio.  HB 396 would have added a number of definitions to the Ohio Revised Code, including a lengthy list of “prohibited species.”  Species of birds, crayfish, fish, insects, and mollusks were included in the list.  Additionally, “restricted species” was defined as including the quagga mussel, the zebra mussel, and their eggs.  In addition, HB 396 would have given the Chief of the Division of Wildlife, with advice from Ohio Director of Agriculture, the power to designate other restricted and prohibited species subject to a number of considerations.  One of these considerations would have been whether or not the species could cause severe harm to agricultural resources. The bill would have made it illegal to possess, introduce, sell, or offer to sell restricted and prohibited species.

The bill was referred to the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee on January 20, 2016 and ultimately did not leave the Committee.

To read HB 396, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 396 is available here.

Deer Rehabilitation and House Bill 267

House Bill 267 was introduced on June 22, 2015 and would have changed the Ohio Revised Code to allow licenses to run deer sanctuaries, permits to rehabilitate deer, and training for law enforcement.  During the training, law enforcement officers were supposed to learn how to determine whether they needed to humanely euthanize injured deer or transfer them to someone permitted to rehabilitate the deer.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on October 1, 2015, and was ultimately stranded there. 

To read HB 267, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 267 is available here.

Labeling Nursery Stock and House Bill 566

 House Bill 566 was introduced on May 12, 2016 and would have made it illegal for a person to “recklessly label or advertise nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators” if the nursery stock had been “treated with a systemic insecticide.”  It would also have been illegal for a person to “recklessly label” stock as beneficial if the stock included the U.S. EPA warnings of “pollinator protection box[es]” and “pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement[s] in the environmental hazard section of an insecticide product label” on its packaging. 

The bill was referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on November 11, 2016 and never made it any further.

To read HB 566, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 566 is available here.

Taxation

Adjusting Current Agricultural Use Value formulas: Senate Bill 246 and House Bill 398

During the 131st General Assembly, the Senate considered Senate Bill 246. SB 246 addressed how current agricultural use value, otherwise known as CAUV, is calculated. CAUV permits land to be valued at its agricultural value rather than the land’s market or “highest and best use” value. SB 246 was a companion bill. That means that a version of the bill was introduced in both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate. The companion house bill to SB 246 was House Bill 398.

Both bills were intended to alter the current formula used to calculate CAUV values across Ohio. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the changes proposed by the bill would “have a uniformly downward effect on the taxable value of CAUV farmland.” Thus, the likely effect would have been a lower tax bill for farmers who are taxed on a CAUV basis.

The Senate referred its bill, SB 246, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on December 9, 2015 and HB 398 was referred to the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee on January 20, 2016. Neither committee acted on its bill. Therefore, neither bill was passed into law during the 131st General Assembly.

To read SB 246, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of SB 246 is available here. To read HB 398, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 398 is available here.

Nonrefundable Tax Credits for Rural Businesses and Senate Bill 209

The 131st General Assembly considered a nonrefundable tax credit for insurance companies that invest in certain rural business growth funds. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, qualifying rural business growth funds include special purpose rural businesses that contribute capital to certain kinds of businesses with substantial operations in rural areas of Ohio.

SB 209 passed in the Ohio Senate. But, the bill did not pass the Ohio House. Therefore, the bill was not passed into law during the 131st General Assembly.

To read SB 209, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of SB 209 is available here.

Posted In: Animals, Business and Financial, Environmental, Tax
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By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, July 07th, 2016

Governor Kasich has signed legislation to create a new “Ohio Farm Winery Liquor Permit.”  While wine makers in Ohio may currently obtain a general liquor permit to make and sell wine on a farm, the general permit does not distinguish the source of the wine. The new Ohio Farm Winery Permit legally designates the wine as being made from grapes grown on the wine maker’s farm.  Sponsors and supporters of the legislation claim that the special designation will help consumers know a wine’s localized nature, bring recognition to Ohio’s wine growing regions, keep Ohio competitive with other states that designate farm-produced wines, and ensure that farm wineries continue to receive property tax treatment as agricultural operations.  Wineries that qualify for the new permit would "be able to present themselves as true farming operations," according to sponsor Ron Young (R-Leroy Township).

Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control may issue an Ohio Farm Winery Permit only to wine makers who meet two requirements:  the manufacturer produces wine from grapes, fruit or other agricultural products grown on the manufacturer’s property, and the property qualifies as “land devoted exclusively to agricultural use” under Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program, which requires that the land be used for commercial agricultural production and be at least 10 acres in size or, if less than 10 acres, generates a minimum average of $2500 in gross income.

Under the new law, an Ohio Farm Winery Permit holder may sell its wine products for consumption on the premises where manufactured, for consumption off the premises in sealed containers, or to a wholesale permit holder. An Ohio Farm Winery Permit holder may also manufacture, purchase and import brandy for fortifying wine and may import and purchase wine for blending purposes, but the total amount of wine used for blending cannot exceed 40% of all wine manufactured by the wine maker.   

H.B. 342, which will be effective in late September, is available here.  

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, May 09th, 2016

An agritourism bill first introduced over a year ago has finally received approval from the Ohio General Assembly. The Senate passed SB 75 last November, but the bill did not pass the House of Representatives until May 4, 2016. The House had passed a similar bill last May, but the Senate failed to act on that bill. If signed by Governor Kasich, SB 75 will be in effect in time for the fall agritourism season. (Update: Governor Kasich signed the bill, which becomes effective 8/16/16).

The legislation addresses civil liability risk, property taxation and local zoning authority for “farms” that provide “agritourism” activities. It’s important to understand several definitions in the law:

  • A "farm" is land that is devoted to commercial agricultural production, either at least 10 acres in size or grossing an average income of $2500 from such production.
  • "Agricultural production" means commercial aquaculture, algaculture, apiculture, animal husbandry, poultry husbandry; the production for a commercial purpose of timber, field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees, flowers, or sod; the growth of timber for a noncommercial purpose if the land on which the timber is grown is contiguous to or part of a parcel of land under common ownership that is otherwise devoted exclusively to agricultural use; or any combination of such husbandry, production, or growth; and includes the processing, drying, storage, and marketing of agricultural products when those activities are conducted in conjunction with such husbandry, production, or growth.
  • "Agritourism" is an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in, or enjoy that activity.
  • An "agritourism provider" is anyone who owns, operates, provides, or sponsors an agritourism activity, whether or not for a fee, including employees at agritourism activities. 

For agritourism providers on farms, the legislation offers the following protections:

Civil liability immunity.   The new law protects an agritourism provider from liability for injuries to agritourism participants in certain situations. The law states that a provider does not have a legal duty to remove risks that are “inherent” in agritourism activities and will not be liable for any harm a participant suffers because of such risks. “Inherent risks” are dangers or conditions that are an integral part of an agritourism activity, including surface and subsurface conditions of land; ordinary dangers of structures or equipment ordinarily used in farming; behavior or actions of domestic or wild animals , except for vicious or dangerous dogs; the possibility of contracting illness from physical contact with animals, animal feed, animal waste, or surfaces contaminated by animal waste; and a participant’s failure to follow instructions or exercise reasonable caution while engaging in the agritourism activity.

Warning sign requirement. An agritourism provider must post and maintain warning signs on the farm to receive the law’s civil liability protection, and a provider who fails to post or maintain these signs can be liable for a participant’s harm. At or near each entrance to the agritourism location or at each agritourism activity, a provider must post and maintain a sign that states: "WARNING: Under Ohio law, there is no liability for an injury to or death of a participant in an agritourism activity conducted at this agritourism location if that injury or death results from the inherent risks of that agritourism activity. Inherent risks of agritourism activities include, but are not limited to, the risk of injury inherent to land, equipment, and animals as well as the potential for you as a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to your injury or death. You are assuming the risk of participating in this agritourism activity." This warning must be printed in black letters that are at least one inch in height.

Exceptions to immunity.  An agritourism provider will not be immune for harm caused by the provider’s willful or wanton disregard for a participant’s safety; if the provider purposefully caused harm to the participant; if the provider's actions or inactions constituted criminal conduct and caused harm to the participant; or if the provider had or should have had actual knowledge of an existing dangerous condition that is not an inherent risk and the provider did not make the dangerous condition known to the participant.

Property taxation. The new legislation ensures that agritourism parcels are eligible for Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program, which provides reduced property taxation on qualifying agricultural lands. According to the new law, the existence of agritourism on a tract, lot, or parcel of land does not disqualify land that otherwise qualifies for the CAUV program.

Local zoning authority. The new legislation expands Ohio’s “agricultural exemption” from local zoning to include agritourism activities. The “agricultural exemption” limits the ability of townships and counties to use zoning to prohibit or regulate certain agricultural land uses in any zoning district. Under the new law, agritourism becomes part of the agricultural exemption and is an agricultural land use that zoning officials cannot prohibit by way of zoning.

The legislation does allow townships and counties to regulate some factors related to agritourism land uses if the regulations are necessary to protect public health and safety, however. These factors include the size of structures used primarily for agritourism and setback lines for such structures, egress or ingress into a parcel, and the size of parking areas. This limited authority does not include the power to require improvements such as drainage or paving for agritourism parking areas.

The legislation also clarifies that county and township zoning may not prohibit the use or construction of structures for vinting and selling wine if located on land where grapes are grown.

Implications of the new legislation

  1. Not everyone who engages in agritourism will benefit from the new law.  The law is designed to address agritourism activities that diversify an existing farm—where the activities occur on land that is otherwise engaged in agricultural production. For example, a person who purchases 10 acres of vacant land with the intent of creating a corn maze and petting farm will not benefit from the law because there is no agricultural production already taking place on the land. If the land is first involved in agricultural production, added agritourism activities will fall under the new law.
  2. Visitors to agritourism operations must take more responsibility for their own safety.  The law recognizes that there are inherent dangers on farms that can be beyond the control of agritourism providers. Visitors who wish to participate in an agritourism experience must be aware of these dangers and be prepared to protect themselves by following directions, paying attention to surface conditions, being cautious around animals and equipment, supervising their children and generally exercising reasonable care while on the farm.
  3. Agritourism providers must be prepared to meet the law’s signage requirements.  When the law becomes effective, agritourism operators should have proper warning signs posted. Providers who fail to post the right sign in the right place will lose the law’s immunity protections.
  4. Local officials must treat free and fee-based agritourism activities equally.  Unlike some agricultural laws, there is no distinction in the new law between commercial agritourism businesses and free agritourism activities like educational farm tours; the law applies in the same way regardless of whether the activity is fee-based or free, as long as it’s conducted on a “farm.”
  5. Counties and townships must identify public health and safety issues and develop appropriate zoning standards. Counties and townships must be prepared to recognize agritourism situations that pose health and safety concerns due to the size and location of a structure, ingress and egress on the property or the size of a parking area. If a public health or safety issue is identified and the county or township wants to regulate the issue, it must have enacted zoning standards that address the issue.

Read SB 75 on the Ohio General Assembly’s website here.

Post Script:  Governor Kasich signed this legislation on May 17, 2016; the new law becomes effective on August 16, 2016.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

A legislative proposal to address manure infrastructure costs introduced by Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) is moving once again, receiving its third hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, April 26.  The bill proposes a refundable personal income tax credit for livestock owners in Ohio who invest in facilities or equipment for manure storage, treatment, application, handling or transportation.  Rep. Hill introduced the measure last August, but it has not been on the committee's agenda since its second hearing in February.  Here are the details of the proposed legislation:

  • The tax credit would apply only to taxpayers who own livestock in Ohio on the bill’s effective date and for the entire taxable year in which claiming the credit.  The credit would not apply to former livestock owners, those who obtain livestock after the effective date or those who do not own livestock for the entire year in which claiming the credit.
  • Eligible investments would include those made between January 1, 2005 and January 1, 2020 for any costs incurred to:
  • Acquire manure handling or transportation equipment, which means any machinery, device, equipment, tool, motor vehicle, system or infrastructure improvement used primarily to move manure to or from a manure storage or treatment facility or other location, or to clean or decontaminate land or surfaces on or in which manure is deposited or stored.
  • Acquire manure application equipment, which includes any machinery, device, equipment, motor vehicle or system used to apply or inject manure into or onto soil for agricultural purposes;
  • Plan, design, excavate, construct or install a manure storage or treatment facility anywhere in Ohio, which includes any excavated, diked or walled structure or combination of structures designed to stabilize, hold or store manure.
  • The investments made must assist the taxpayer in complying with NRCS Nutrient Management Code 590 regarding manure application anywhere in the state or complying with state laws regarding the application of manure in Lake Erie’s western basin.   
  • The amount of the tax credit would be 50% of the total eligible investment, and the taxpayer would be required to spread the credit amount equally over a five year period.
  • If the taxpayer’s credit would exceed the income tax due, the taxpayer would be entitled to a refund of the excess amount.
  • The tax commissioner would be responsible for adopting rules for the tax credit, which could require the taxpayer to substantiate the amount of the investment, identify the location of the livestock or describe how the investment helps the taxpayer comply with laws regarding manure storage and application.

Several dairy farmers, the Ohio Soybean Association and the Ohio Farm Bureau testified at the April 26 committee hearing in support of the bill, highlighting the financial strains on livestock operators who install new manure storage and separation equipment.   Committee members expressed several concerns with the proposal, including the retroactivity to investments made since 2005, its application to owners of Confined Animal Feeding Operations and the Legislative Service Commission’s projected loss of tens of millions of dollars per year in state revenue due to the credit.   

Read and follow HB 297 on the Ohio General Assembly website, here.

Posted In: Animals, Environmental, Tax
Tags: manure, tax credit, livestock
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