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getting agricultural status on your land in order to transition to wildlife management?  RSS feed

 
Caroline Rodgers
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I know I'll be showing my ignorance in this post, but this topic seems to pop up from time to time, but I'm not sure what this really means.......
What is the benefit of getting agricultural status on your land?
Why would you transition to wildlife management?
If you do transition to wildlife management can you still grow food forests and keep domestic animals like chicken and ducks?
 
James Whitelaw
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Hi Caroline,

I've studied Ag status as regards my area of the Lower Adirondacks, primarily in regards to reduction in property taxes, not necessarily wildlife management. Each state and even local areas have specific rules regarding transitioning to agricultural status. In our case it is required to gross $10,000 a year for three years, this to avoid hobbyists from using Ag to reduce their property taxes. I understand NJ recently raised the yearly gross sales amount due to abuses of the program. Land that is located in an "agricultural zone" is usually easier to claim an exemption. The rules for us are very specific on what can be sold to qualify, for example crops (of course), Christmas trees, timber as a %, etc. the laws mandte that property receiving an exemption could be subject to recapture of taxes if diverted to another use such as residential.

Note that Ag exemption is a separate program from various programs designed to preserve woodlands, so I'm unsure how that applies to your question of transitioning to wildlife management. These matters are very locale specific, so perhaps knowing what area your interested in would help. In our case we are preserving wild aspects of our land having set aside areas to be undisturbed to preserve some dry leaf woodland, or vernal ponds and an area we know is inhabited by a Northern Goshawk.
 
James Whitelaw
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Here is a link to a Cornell document on the various programs in NY State that might clarify different programs and their objectives, at least in-so-far as NY is concerned. My understanding is all states have some variety of programs. Of course if outside the usa is outside my wheelhouse.

Agricultural status means to me land either in an existing agricultural zone that has not otherwise been developed and can be taxed at a lower rate and may be subject to some sort of "right to farm" law. Ag status is separate from "wildlife management" if by that you mean some sort of conservation status. I suspect in most cases if some sort of conservation easement or protection has been achieved, specific rules would apply. I have read these specific rules can be negotiable depending on the goal of easement. If the primary goal is simply to prevent development and protection of wetlands and some sort of agricultural status exist, then I guess other than clear cutting or building structures you're likely on solid ground.
 
Travis Johnson
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There are a lot of reasons to get agricultural status on your land.

Some deal with tax reduction, and others deal with legality. On the Federal Level, as farm is considered a farm if a farmer makes, or attempts to make, $1000 per year in profit. Now that is a VERY loose term, and there is some talk of increasing the standards to $10,000, but it is highly doubtful that will happen as it would be political suicide for the politician trying to implement the change. For farmers...hobbists or otherwise, this is important because unlike most businesses where after 5 years of failing to make profit, the IRS automatically considers you out of business, but in farming you can lose money every year indefinitely. That is a nice perk, and honestly, is required in farming because the profit margins are razor thin.

Over the years Ag stratus has helped me in many ways, once when going through a divorce my ex-wife tried to make the claim that I was not a true farm, but a letter from my Farm Service Agency County Committee dated years earlier said I was. It also redirected a subsidy check to a farmer renting the farm, to me directly and arrives yearly. It is not much, but it helps pay the property taxes. Maine is a Right to Farm State, so with that act, and having that Ag Status, allows me to farm as I see fit and not as newcomers to town who might be from the city and dislike me spreading manure on my land, or how I plant crops, or what I plant I plant for crops. This is important for Permiculturists who might upset the "normal" way of farming. Nope, with the Right to Farm Act, and Ag Status, I can farm as I see fit. It also allows me t protect my livestock, and in some ways, this is wildlife management, but probably not as you are thinking. With this status I can take out predators, whether it be crows killing my lambs, coyotes, or the neighbors dog. In short, and as a whole, people love farmers, and we are given a lot of rights so that we can kick food onto the national food chain and feed the 99-1/2 percent of this nation that are not farmers.

The part I do not understand is why a farm can not manage wildlife too?

I am a farm, but honestly my open land (fields) is only 25% of my total acreage, 75% is forest. Because I am part of the American Tree Farm System, I am REQUIRED to manage for wildlife. With a federally designated area on my farm determined to be a huge winter feeding area for deer, I am very limited in what I can do there. In fact the US Dept of Agriculture is in charge of the US Forest Service, just as they are for the National Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency. And all of these agencies have programs geared towards wildlife management. I am not sure about the funding now, but USDA-NRCS had funding called WHIP (Wildlife Incentive Program) where they paid for habitat from everything from Monarch Butterflies, to providing bat houses, to birds nests). Funding is out there for wildlife management, and considering the HUGE dollars wildlife management (hunting and fishing) bring to individual states, this makes sense. All this a farm has access too...perhaps more so.

So I am not sure why there is a need to be one or the other. On my farm we take wildlife management very seriously, have a wonderful working relationship with area hunters, provide habitat for a host of wildlife, and yet still farm and harvest forest products. Is it a utopia? I am not sure, but there is diversity and wildlife thrive here.
 
Travis Johnson
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James, as crazy as it is...and I am working on this through congressional action...you have that backwards.

It is perfectly legal to clear cut any piece of woods, even if it is designated wetland woodland, and even bulldoze roads, and drain the swamp so you can remove forest products. I was told I could take my bulldozer and cut roads and push out stumps every 20 feet if I wanted to for the removal of timber. However, the moment I wanted to convert the wetland to agriculture use, a person is in violation of the Swampbusters Act and those roads and removed stumps would be considered a violation of federal law. Not just subject to the laws of the USDA, but also the EPA, my state environmental protection agency, and now through a ruling by the Supreme Court, the Army Corp of Engineers.

It is absolutely stupid, and I hope to change this act soon, but it is perfectly legal to destroy a piece of wetland getting wood off it, but heavens to betsies I try and feed a hungry nation.
 
Caroline Rodgers
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First of all, thank you to everyone who has posted responses!
Now as to this comment-

Travis Johnson wrote:

The part I do not understand is why a farm can not manage wildlife too?



That's something I was struggling with as well.  I've just noticed in posts that some people make this transition, and I wasn't sure why you couldn't do both. 

My family and I are planning on pseudo-retiring to a min 5+acre lot of land in Oregon once we saved a bit more money and our daughter is finished with braces.  Best case scenario would be a 1 year wait, but it will most likely take two years.  All of our family members in the PNW are big on the city life and we want to escape it, so it's wonderful to have a resource like this.  Does anyone from Oregon or Washington have anything to add?

ETA- I spent a large percentage of my childhood on my family's farm in Louisiana- so I know how different it will be and understand the less glamorous aspects. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here in Texas, Agricultural tax status and Wildlife Management tax status have the same tax benefit.  When we obtained ag status, our taxes were cut by more than half, because the greatest value in our property is in the land (even though it is very poor quality land).  We don't really want to be farmers or ranchers, we really want to manage for wildlife, so the year after we obtained ag status we transitioned to Wildlife Management.  We kept our sheep for a few years more but ultimately I wasn't able to care for them properly and wasn't using the wool anyway, so we gave them to a fellow permie.  There's a certain amount of work you need to put into the land to maintain Wildlife Management status, and you have to send in a report every year, but it is much less expensive than buying feed for livestock and maintaining fences, etc.  Also, there's no requirement that one stop agriculture while managing for wildlife, just that the ag practice can't conflict with the wildlife.

http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/private/agricultural_land/
 
Riley Walker
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Location: Grimes County, Texas | Zone 8b
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Like Tyler, I am in Texas and have had to deal with the agricultural use exemption definitions.

Essentially, the exemption significantly reduces the tax burden of qualifying acreage, and allows a sales tax exemption for purchase of supplies related to your activity. It's up to each taxing entity (county appraisal district) to define their acceptable agricultural activities, and the intensity that each has to be done in order to qualify (could be income, or animal units per acre, or % timber harvest). I would recommend contacting the tax district directly, but even then you may not get the full picture. For example, my call to the CAD only mentioned timber, cattle, and hay as qualifying activities. Turns out after some research that beekeeping also qualifies, and I'm sure there's more that will be uncovered when I speak with the county agriculture extension office.

Here, you have to farm for 5 out of the last 7 years before you can apply. After a year of having your exemption, you can transition to wildlife management. As Tyler says, there's regular paperwork, planning, and approvals to go through - but to me the benefit is that you no longer have to satisfy the taxman's intensity standards.

This is my current understanding anyway, if I'm mistaken on any of this I'd love to hear the experiences of others!
 
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