In Brief Region Losing Farmland February 8, 2009 Waldo Jaquith 12 Comments Our area lost 8% of its farmland in the past five years, with Albemarle losing twenty farms in that time.
12 thoughts on “Region Losing Farmland”
I found this interesting:
“Carl Tinder, an Albemarle County farmer and president of the county’s Farm Bureau, said the rapid rise in market value is largely the result of rising prices for commodities such as beef, dairy and soybeans…
Some farmers, he said, are finding that they can turn a similar profit from growing a couple of acres of vegetables as they would earn by growing traditional commodities such as corn and soybeans in vast fields.”
If you look at the history of the Farm Bureau in the past couple years it has opposed every major plan to protect the rural area from development. I would hope these statistics would make the Farm Bureau really stop and think about the consequences of developing the rural area, and why it’s so important to protect it. After all, you can’t very well have farmers if there is no where left to farm…
How does mr. tinder define “a farm?” Until we know how mr.tinder and farm bureau define farm, this may not be as bad as it first appears.
Its hard to figure out the Farm Bureau.They say they want to preserve the rural areas, but whenever the BOS comes up with a proposal to control development, they oppose it, crying “violation of property rights.” Like they want to have their cake and eat it too,preserve farmland and yet allowed unrestricted development.
I do agree that looking at changes in how farming is done, what crops are raised,etc, might not be bad idea. The Local Food Movement could make an impact along these lines. Albemarle fruits and veggies on your table instead of those imported from across the country.
Most farmers have the vast majority of their net worth tied up in their land. Looks great on paper (at least it did a couple years ago), but it ain’t money in the bank.
Is it really surprising that they view plans to constrict current property rights with alarm?
Will, I know we’ve had this debate before and that we differ in opinions; however now we have the indisputable facts right in front of us. The bottom line is that the current pro-growth policy by the Farm Bureau is causing significant loss of farmland in Albemarle County.
Protecting “property rights” (i.e. development privileges), hasn’t been successful at saving farms. I think it comes down to the fact that if a farmer is hurting bad enough that he needs to subdivide then he’s probably going to quit farming anyway. At that point, the public and the farming community isn’t served by allowing the subdivision. After all, if it can’t be subdivided then there’s a better chance it may be sold to another farmer.
Furthermore, any restriction that removes development rights wholesale across the county doesn’t affect property value. Essentially, by limiting the supply you raise the value, and make it a more desirable area, so it comes out even. (There are several examples that demonstate this in practice in the county). From that perspective, I think it is time to seriously consider downzoning the entire rural area. It’s the right thing to do to do protect farmland, and might be the only viable option left.
“After all, if it can’t be subdivided then there’s a better chance it may be sold to another farmer.” What happens if there isn’t another farmer waiting to buy it? Does the current owner lose the property because of back taxes?
“It’s the right thing to do to do protect farmland…” Can you really protect farmland if it isn’t being farmed. Perhaps “conserve” describes it better. But, then I remember your saying that land in the rural areas that is not being farmed should be taxed at the same rate as in the growth area, so this landowner is really up the creek if he can’t sell his property. This seems to be a complex situation with no simple solution.
Your argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense… the current owner wouldn’t lose the property due to back taxes because back taxes only apply it you take it out of farming into some other use (and they apply to the person who changes the use, not the one who sells it).
Yes, a farmer in dire straights may end up selling the farm to a person who just wants an estate, and who isn’t particularly concerned with farming. That person would (or should) then have to pay the regular rate just like everyone else. That provides a pretty significant incentive for whomever buys it to keep it as farmland. Either way, if it’s subdivided and developed then it’ll never be a farm again. At least by downzoning you get a decent chance that it will be farmland again (especially considering the rather significant tax breaks for that use.)
Of course if we provide “farming” taxbreaks to every large landowner (as we do now) then effectivly there is no incentive to keep it farmland versus just being some guy’s private estate.
I think you have misunderstood my example. Most farms in Albemarle are not considered estates owned by the rich. The small farmer who is unable to continue to earn a decent living farming may wish to sell his property rather than not be able to pay his taxes. Even if the farm is on the market, he still has to pay his taxes. If he has no income, he can’t pay his taxes. If he stops farming because he can no longer afford to, his property will be taxed at a higher rate and he certainly can’t pay those taxes. If it takes several years to sell his farm, he will owe back taxes. At some point his farm goes up for auction because he can not pay his back taxes. If makes to me that the landowner does not want to limit the potential buyers to only those who wish to farm. We have to face it, there’s not queue out there of estate hunders waiting to buy in Albemarle County.
You’ve got a whole lot of faulty assumptions in there. First of all, you assume that the demand for large parcels is lower that for a bunch of small parcels. I don’t think you’ll find it easier to sell 100 acres with 50 division rights versus 100 without. Here’s a real life example…
Stream buffers were applied to half the county befor ethe other half, in effect removing the number of division rights. If you were right, then you’d have expected that half of the county to lose property value, right? Guess what, property sales showed that people had no problem selling those parcel with less division rights at just the same price (and often more) than the part of the county without the buffers. Why? Supply and demand. Remove the extra divisions and you reduce the supply and increase the demand. So… the farmer in your example, let’s call him “farmer Ted”, if he has trouble selling his 50 acre farm then he has just as much trouble selling it with or without the division rights. If he needs to sell it tomorrow, then he has to sell it at a price the market will support, even if that’s not the peak prices he saw two years ago. Everyone’s in that situation, and farmer Ted is no different. (Besides, even if you were right, and it was hard to sell large parcels, that would only make them more affordable for the next generation of farmers.)
Okay, now to the taxes. No one comes out to your house every week to see if you are still grazing cattle. In fact, this will be the first time land use has been revalidated in probably 30 years. (If you can’t sell your property in 30 years then you’ve got problems.) In other words, if farmer Ted has to get a day job, then no one is going to notice and raise his taxes for a couple years at the very least. Generally they only notice when you change the use (i.e. apply for a subdivision or sell).
“Besides, even if you were right, and it was hard to sell large parcels, that would only make them more affordable for the next generation of farmers” That’s probably why many of the current landowners are upset; they’re not interested in making their land cheaper for the next owners.
“First of all, you assume that the demand for large parcels is lower that for a bunch of small parcels.” If that’s true then you should have no fear of developers wanting to buy the land to build another Woodbrook to provide housing for all of those hundreds of people who want homes and a lawn and no pigs or cows, because the developers would be outbided by the large-tract buyer(?).
C’ville Eye, now I realize you like to disagree with everyone on principle, but this is an important point so I don’t mind elaborating…
You’re still not getting it. When two parcels are side by side, then the one with more division rights will sell for a higher price; however, when you downzone a whole region then it decreases the supply and increases the demand (simple high school level economics). Thus downzoning the entire county would have no sum affect on the value of the property or its ability to sell. There are numerous examples in the county, and elsewhere, that prove this to be true (like the one I cited about stream buffers). Futhermore, huge parcels would retain many hypothetical division rights, but the minimum subdivision size would allow for most farming operations to occur on those parcels.
As for your point “That’s probably why many of the current landowners are upset; they’re not interested in making their land cheaper for the next owners.” That may be true, but it isn’t the responsibility of other taxpayers to artificially inflate or protect someone else’s investment, and really has almost nothing to do with farming per se (If my home goes into foreclosure because my shoe repair business goes bankrupt are you going to help pay my mortgage?). In fact, taxpayers have a vested interest in reducing the number of speculators from the market place. The vast majority of the land use cases never really were farmers in the first place, but rather land speculators looking to flip land for a higher price (making land look like it’s worth more than it really is). People are certainly free to invest in land, but they should have to pay fair taxes on that just as they would if they invested in any other commodity.
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