Agricultural Classifications

How long has Greenbelt been available; and, is it available in every Florida county? Why can't I find any Greenbelt literature?
It has been available Statewide since the implementing statutes were adopted in 1959; but, the Greenbelt name won't be found anywhere in the statutes. Article VII, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution provides for classification and assessment of agricultural property based on use. Florida Statutes 193.441, 193.451, and 193.461 contain the provisions for Agricultural Classification (Greenbelt) and assessments, defining any assessment at less than the full value as a Classified Use assessment.

What is the benefit? How much exemption do I receive?
It is not an exemption, but is an assessment based on land use. It provides far greater relief from tax liability than most exemptions. For some agricultural land uses, the reduction in taxes for Greenbelt Classification versus market value may exceed 90%!

How can a Greenbelt appraisal be so much less than a market value?
The appraisal is based on what appraisers statewide call an "income approach," and has nothing to do with the market value of the property. The actual agricultural use of the land and the soil fertility or capability are determined, such as Cropland and Timber Class. These determinations have associated site indexes. The higher the site index the faster trees grow. Site indexes have associated yield factors. A higher site index has a higher yield factor and when that factor is multiplied by the price-per-cord per-acre the gross income per-acre is determined. The associated cost per-acre is then subtracted resulting in the net income per-acre. The net income is then divided by an appropriate cap rate resulting in the per-acre value. Example: A parcel in Bay County with the agricultural classification that has a net income per acre of $19, when a 10% cap rate is applied will yield an approximate taxable value of $190 per acre. At the County millage rate of $12 per $1000, the taxes per-acre would be $2.28.

The average tax collected per acre in Bay County was higher than most of 13 NW Florida counties recently surveyed. The survey indicated that Bay County properties assigned an agricultural classification have been both properly classified and valued in accordance with DOR mandated guidelines.

What is the purpose of the Greenbelt Classification?
The Greenbelt Classification allows our farmers and agri-business to continue in the business of growing agricultural products, including affordable food for our tables and renewable resource fiber for clothing, paper, construction, and bio-energy. Agricultural land provides immense environmental benefits such as open spaces, clean water, clean air, wildlife, recreation, and shields land from development. On average 77% of neighboring counties land is classified as agricultural; 61% of Bay County’s land is classified as agricultural. Example: A parcel with a Bay County millage rate of $12 per $1,000 that has the Greenbelt agricultural use with a $19 per acre net income and a $190 per-acre assessment pays $2.28 in taxes per acre vs. $30 per acre for the same parcel with a market value of $2500 per-acre and a millage rate of $12. With a tax liability that far exceeds net income an agriculturally-related business cannot be maintained.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes 193.461(3)(a), "No land shall be classified as agricultural land unless an application is filed on or before March 1 of each year. Only lands which are used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be classified as agricultural. "Bona fide agricultural purposes" means good faith commercial agricultural use of land."

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January 1st is the statutory assessment date therefore the property must be in use on or before this date or a reasonable effort has been made to place the property in use.

The filing deadlines for agricultural classification is between January 1st and March 1st of each year.

IMPORTANT: Agricultural Classification is not transferable. If the property is sold or transferred from one ownership to another, a new application must be filed. If any changes in the use of the property it is important to notify the Property Appraiser's office.

All applications must be reviewed by the Property Appraiser who either approves or disapproves the application. He may at that time request additional information to assist in his determination. If the application is denied you will be notified by mail at which time you can ask to discuss the denial with the Property Appraiser.

Agricultural zoning of your property does not automatically entitle you to agricultural classification for taxation purposes. They are not one and the same.

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QUALIFICATION

In order for the Property Appraiser to determine whether or not the land is used for commercial agricultural purposes, the following factors must be taken into consideration:

a. The length of time the land has been so used.
b. Whether the use has been continuous.
c. The purchase price paid.
d. Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use, but a minimum acreage may not be required for agricultural assessment.
e. Whether an indicated effort has been made to care sufficiently and adequately for the land in accordance with accepted commercial agricultural practices, including, without limitation, fertilizing, liming, tilling, mowing, reforesting, and other accepted agricultural practices.
f. Whether the land is under lease and, if so, the effective length, terms, and conditions of the lease.
g. Such other factors as may become applicable.

The Property Appraiser has the right to remove the classification from the land if the property is no longer being utilized for a commercial agricultural purpose.

HOMESITE
If there is a homesite located on the property applying for an agricultural classification, the home and the curtilage it sits on are NOT eligible for this classification. The owner can obtain a homestead exemption if it is the owner's primary residence.

AUTOMATIC RENEWAL
Existing property owners with agricultural classification will receive an automatic renewal notice each year. If any changes to the land have occurred, it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to bring it to the Property Appraiser's attention by returning the card with the appropriate information or change noted. Properties will continue to be reviewed by our field deputies once every five years to verify that bona fide commercial practices are still in place. If the property has changed ownership, the new owner will be required to file and application and meet eligibility requirements.

LEASES
When a property is leased for agricultural purposes, the same rules apply to the classification. It is the ultimate responsibility of the owner to make sure the lessee is complying with all laws that govern the agricultural classification. The owner needs to submit the lease in its entirety with the application. If any change in the lease occurs, it is the responsibility of the property owner to report it to the Property Appraiser.

DENIAL OF AGRICULTURAL CLASSIFICATION
The Property Appraiser will notify the owner of record by letter of denial of the classification. You will have 30 days from the date on your denial letter to file a petition to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) to appeal the denial by the Property Appraiser.

IS THERE ANY APPEAL IF I MISS THE DEADLINE FOR FILING?
Yes. If you were qualified to receive an agricultural classification and failed to apply for your classification by March 1. You may file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board (VAB). Along with your petition you must file an application for the classification, and the reason or special circumstance that caused you to file a late application. The petition may be filed at any time during the taxable year between March 2nd and the 25th day following the mailing of the TRIM Notice by the Property Appraiser. The applicant must include a nonrefundable fee of $15.00 for the filing of each petition.

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FLORIDA STATUTES on Agricultural Classification

193.461 Agricultural lands; classification and assessment; mandated eradication or quarantine program.

(1) The property appraiser shall, on an annual basis, classify for assessment purposes all lands within the county as either agricultural or nonagricultural.

1(2) Any landowner whose land is denied agricultural classification by the property appraiser may appeal to the value adjustment board. The property appraiser shall notify the landowner in writing of the denial of agricultural classification on or before July 1 of the year for which the application was filed. The notification shall advise the landowner of his or her right to appeal to the value adjustment board and of the filing deadline. The property appraiser shall have available at his or her office a list by ownership of all applications received showing the acreage, the full valuation under s. 193.011, the valuation of the land under the provisions of this section, and whether or not the classification requested was granted.

(3)(a) No lands shall be classified as agricultural lands unless a return is filed on or before March 1 of each year. The property appraiser, before so classifying such lands, may require the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s representative to furnish the property appraiser such information as may reasonably be required to establish that such lands were actually used for a bona fide agricultural purpose. Failure to make timely application by March 1 shall constitute a waiver for 1 year of the privilege herein granted for agricultural assessment. However, an applicant who is qualified to receive an agricultural classification who fails to file an application by March 1 may file an application for the classification and may file, pursuant to s. 194.011(3), a petition with the value adjustment board requesting that the classification be granted. The petition may be filed at any time during the taxable year on or before the 25th day following the mailing of the notice by the property appraiser as provided in s.194.011(1). Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 194.013, the applicant must pay a nonrefundable fee of $15 upon filing the petition. Upon reviewing the petition, if the person is qualified to receive the classification and demonstrates particular extenuating circumstances judged by the property appraiser or the value adjustment board to warrant granting the classification, the property appraiser or the value adjustment board may grant the classification. The owner of land that was classified agricultural in the previous year and whose ownership or use has not changed may reapply on a short form as provided by the department. The lessee of property may make original application or reapply using the short form if the lease, or an affidavit executed by the owner, provides that the lessee is empowered to make application for the agricultural classification on behalf of the owner and a copy of the lease or affidavit accompanies the application. A county may, at the request of the property appraiser and by a majority vote of its governing body, waive the requirement that an annual application or statement be made for classification of property within the county after an initial application is made and the classification granted by the property appraiser. Such waiver may be revoked by a majority vote of the governing body of the county.

(b) Subject to the restrictions specified in this section, only lands that are used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be classified agricultural. The term “bona fide agricultural purposes” means good faith commercial agricultural use of the land.

1. In determining whether the use of the land for agricultural purposes is bona fide, the following factors may be taken into consideration:

a. The length of time the land has been so used.

b. Whether the use has been continuous.

c. The purchase price paid.

d. Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use, but a minimum acreage may not be required for agricultural assessment.

e. Whether an indicated effort has been made to care sufficiently and adequately for the land in accordance with accepted commercial agricultural practices, including, without limitation, fertilizing, liming, tilling, mowing, reforesting, and other accepted agricultural practices.

f. Whether the land is under lease and, if so, the effective length, terms, and conditions of the lease.

g. Such other factors as may become applicable.

2. Offering property for sale does not constitute a primary use of land and may not be the basis for denying an agricultural classification if the land continues to be used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes while it is being offered for sale.

(c) The maintenance of a dwelling on part of the lands used for agricultural purposes shall not in itself preclude an agricultural classification.

(d) When property receiving an agricultural classification contains a residence under the same ownership, the portion of the property consisting of the residence and curtilage must be assessed separately, pursuant to s. 193.011, to qualify for the assessment limitation set forth in s. 193.155. The remaining property may be classified under the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b).

(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a), land that has received an agricultural classification from the value adjustment board or a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to this section is entitled to receive such classification in any subsequent year until such agricultural use of the land is abandoned or discontinued, the land is diverted to a nonagricultural use, or the land is reclassified as nonagricultural pursuant to subsection (4). The property appraiser must, no later than January 31 of each year, provide notice to the owner of land that was classified agricultural in the previous year informing the owner of the requirements of this paragraph and requiring the owner to certify that neither the ownership nor the use of the land has changed. The department shall, by administrative rule, prescribe the form of the notice to be used by the property appraiser under this paragraph. If a county has waived the requirement that an annual application or statement be made for classification of property pursuant to paragraph (a), the county may, by a majority vote of its governing body, waive the notice and certification requirements of this paragraph and shall provide the property owner with the same notification provided to owners of land granted an agricultural classification by the property appraiser. Such waiver may be revoked by a majority vote of the county’s governing body. This paragraph does not apply to any property if the agricultural classification of that property is the subject of current litigation.

1(4) The property appraiser shall reclassify the following lands as nonagricultural:

(a) Land diverted from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use.

(b) Land no longer being utilized for agricultural purposes.

(5) For the purpose of this section, the term “agricultural purposes” includes, but is not limited to, horticulture; floriculture; viticulture; forestry; dairy; livestock; poultry; bee; pisciculture, if the land is used principally for the production of tropical fish; aquaculture, including algaculture; sod farming; and all forms of farm products as defined in s. 823.14(3) and farm production.

(6)(a) In years in which proper application for agricultural assessment has been made and granted pursuant to this section, the assessment of land shall be based solely on its agricultural use. The property appraiser shall consider the following use factors only:

1. The quantity and size of the property;

2. The condition of the property;

3. The present market value of the property as agricultural land;

4. The income produced by the property;

5. The productivity of land in its present use;

6. The economic merchantability of the agricultural product; and

7. Such other agricultural factors as may from time to time become applicable, which are reflective of the standard present practices of agricultural use and production.

(b) Notwithstanding any provision relating to annual assessment found in s. 192.042, the property appraiser shall rely on 5-year moving average data when utilizing the income methodology approach in an assessment of property used for agricultural purposes.

(c)1. For purposes of the income methodology approach to assessment of property used for agricultural purposes, irrigation systems, including pumps and motors, physically attached to the land shall be considered a part of the average yields per acre and shall have no separately assessable contributory value.

2. Litter containment structures located on producing poultry farms and animal waste nutrient containment structures located on producing dairy farms shall be assessed by the methodology described in subparagraph 1.

3. Structures or improvements used in horticultural production for frost or freeze protection, which structures or improvements are consistent with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ interim measures or best management practices adopted pursuant to s. 570.085 or s. 403.067(7)(c), shall be assessed by the methodology described in subparagraph 1.

(d) In years in which proper application for agricultural assessment has not been made, the land shall be assessed under the provisions of s. 193.011.

(7) Lands classified for assessment purposes as agricultural lands which are taken out of production by any state or federal eradication or quarantine program shall continue to be classified as agricultural lands for the duration of such program or successor programs. Lands under these programs which are converted to fallow, or otherwise nonincome-producing uses shall continue to be classified as agricultural lands and shall be assessed at a de minimis value of no more than $50 per acre, on a single year assessment methodology; however, lands converted to other income-producing agricultural uses permissible under such programs shall be assessed pursuant to this section. Land under a mandated eradication or quarantine program which is diverted from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use shall be assessed under s. 193.011.