States Assisting the Formation of Community Gardens and Farms in Abandoned Urban Areas and Working to Eradicate Food Deserts
Presently, it appears that most of the action related to the promotion of community gardens and farms in abandoned urban areas has occurred at the local or municipal level. However, there is legislation in California, The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act (Assembly Bill 551), introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2013, that emerged at the state level. This piece of legislation, that drew bipartisan support in both the California Assembly and Senate, went into effect on January 1, 2014. The bill aims to accomplish two things: (1) increase the use of privately owned, vacant land for urban agriculture and (2) improve land security for urban agriculture projects. The legislation does this by allowing city governments in California, with approval from their county board of supervisors, to designate areas within their boundaries as "urban agriculture incentive zones." In these areas, landowners who sign a contract to commit their land to agricultural use for at least five years will receive a reduction in their property taxes. Specifically, their parcel's property tax assessment will be based on the agricultural value of the land rather than the market-rate value of the land. California's legislation generated interest across the country, particularly at the local level. (More can be learned about the state effort here and the actual legislation here.)
Feral Hog Containment
In a recent request, SLC was asked to identify some of the innovative tactics our member states are employing to combat the growing population of feral hogs.
In 2014, Louisiana passed legislation to allow for the use of aircraft in hunting feral hogs. Senate Bill 681 allows the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to promulgate rules and regulations to allow for the use of aircraft in the taking of outlaw quadruped or outlaw birds that have become so destructive of property as to become a nuisance.
Mississippi State University (MSU) is undertaking an economic impact study of wild hog damage to agriculture in Mississippi. The intent of the study is to provide data that will help researchers and industry representatives lobby state and federal legislators for increased funding and enhanced enforcement of laws.
In addition, the MSU Extension Service and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System published A Landowner’s Guide for Wild Pig Management that offers details on several different methods for controlling wild pigs.
In 2012, Oklahoma passed Senate Bill 1751, which allows for the use of “Judas pig” tracking systems. The general idea of the Judas pig tactic is to catch and release a hog after outfitting it with some sort of tracking device. Hunters will then wait for the released hog to lead them to a larger group of feral hogs.
In early 2014, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources scheduled three, three-day hunting periods on North Island, during which hunters were allowed to hunt with dogs.
National Ag Day--March 8th
In recognition of National Agriculture Day, consider the following: every day 2 million Americans, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, rises early to tend the land and animals that feed the nation and the world. American farmers serve as stewards of over 40 percent of the land mass of the United States, protecting and preserving vital open space and water resources. Beyond the farm, agriculture and related industries employ 22 million Americans in rural and urban settings alike.
Agriculture is central to the economic well-being of the South and the nation. Even as the Great Recession has rocked American businesses, agriculture has grown, with agricultural exports exceeding $136 Biln in 2012, up 18 percent over the previous year. Indeed, since the economic downturn began, U.S. farm exports have enjoyed double digit gains every year. The current U.S. trade balance in agriculture remains one of the few surplus areas, with 2011 agricultural trade resulting in a net positive balance of nearly $43 Biln (at the same time the overall U.S. trade deficit has continued to swell, to $858 Biln in 2011). What makes this current run up in exports noteworthy is that it is taking place at the same time prices for key commodities are also high, resulting in record levels of net farm income.
The South has an abundant and varied agricultural sector, representing nearly the full range of animals and crops raised in the United States. Southern states lead the United States in production of broilers, cotton, cattle, rice, tobacco, among others. Indeed, the 15-state region accounts for nearly 30 percent of all agricultural output in the United States, a remarkable feat considering the South represents little of the nation's output of corn, soybeans and dairy, three of the top five commodities by value.
QuickStat: Top Commodity Production
Agricultural Land Assessments
Every state except Michigan assesses agricultural land for tax purposes based on production rather than market value. In some states, this has lead to reports of abuse by developers and landowners claiming agricultural use for land being held for development purposes. A handful of states have taken steps to review this issue.
Florida has a handbook on ag land taxation that outlines the state's procedures, but does not indicate if it was updated to avoid abuse. The law was changed in 2002 to require an active, affirmative process for ag certification. The Florida Statute Section indicates a relatively rigorous standard to be met (see 193.461(3)(b)1-7), but it is still possible that the land could be called "forest" even if it was non-commercial varieties. Agicultural land sold for three or more times the agricultural assessment value is considered to no longer be in agricultural use and is assessed at the higher, market rate.
Colorado has a relatively high bar for establishing agricutural use, prohibiting horticulture if the plants aren't in the ground, 4-H, and pleasure horses. A recent report from the county government association indicates that the law has some deficiencies, and offers up some points where clarification would help (slide 24). The Legislature passed legislation creating a task force to review ag land classifications, which the governor signed. The report is due on the 15th of October (the Task Force only was formed in June).
South Dakota established a task force on agricultural land assessment in 2008.
What are the current tobacco tax rates in the SLC states?
Nationally, 12 states-including four SLC states-increased tobacco taxes this year. Since 2002, 46 states and Washington, D.C., have increased cigarette tax rates 88 times. Currently, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have cigarette tax rates of $1.00 per pack or more; 13 states and Washington, D.C., have cigarette tax rates of $2.00 per pack or more; and one state-Rhode Island-currently has a cigarette tax rate of more than $3.00-$3.46 per pack.
At $4.25 per pack, New York City has the highest combined state-local tax rate; Chicago comes in second at $3.66 per pack.
The average state tax per pack of cigarettes in the SLC is $0.71, far below the national average of $1.27 per pack.
The federal cigarette tax increased to $1.01 per pack in April of this year.
The average price for a pack of cigarettes nationwide is approximately $5.06.
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