Letter: Green Acres changes are bad for farming, conservationThe Minnesota Legislature made changes last year to the Green Acres program that are bad for farmers and bad for conservation.
By: Heidi Morlock, Belle Plaine, Worthington Daily Globe
The Minnesota Legislature made changes last year to the Green Acres program that are bad for farmers and bad for conservation. My family farm in Scott County is in the Green Acres program. It is currently owned by my mom. I live on the faun along with my husband and two children. Green Acres allows us to pay taxes on the property as farmland and not the development value. This has made it possible for us to keep the family farm even as development in our area is dramatically driving up the price of land around us.
But the state Legislature has put our future on the farm in jeopardy by unnecessary and unhelpful changes to the Green Acres program.
First, I learned that what the legislature is choosing to call “unproductive land” will not be accepted into the program in the future. It may be grandfathered in now, but at a higher price (a stiffer penalty when the land is taken out of the program). When my husband and I moved onto my grandparents’ farm eight years ago, we re-constructed two small wetlands. By the state’s new standards, the wetlands are considered “unproductive” and ineligible for Green Acres. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. This wetland fixes carbon, holds water (and snow), keeps the soil in place, keeps the water table high, houses overwintering frogs and salamanders and provides habitat for pheasants, deer and other wildlife. In addition, native grasses and wildflowers increase biodiversity. If this wasn’t enough, the water loving dogwoods, willows, and native ivies I planted around the wetland are pruned and sold as woody, decorative florals. This land is productive and conserving. It’s an integral part of the farm; it helps make the other land more productive. It can’t be separated out and labeled otherwise.
In addition, the county auditor’s office cannot give me any information regarding the market value of the wetland. So it’s difficult to know if taking the land out of the program will make it unaffordable to keep farming.
And the 11 acres of hardwoods we planted a few years ago and enrolled in CRP are also subject to the “unproductive land” rules. But if I take this acreage out of CRP, plow under the young trees, and plant corn or soybeans then I’ll be eligible for the Green Acres program again.
Finally, when my mom transfers the farm to my family, even though we plan to keep farming it back taxes need to be paid for the past seven years on the “unproductive land.”
I am disappointed and frustrated at the state’s step backward. Instead of supporting an innovative way to protect the environment and make a living, the state is penalizing me. It’s difficult as it is to make a living as a farmer, let alone continue to fight for the right to farm. Since moving onto the family farm I’ve had to fight a four-lane divided highway that’s slated to go through the northern section of our farm, high voltage power lines, Scott County’s zoning out agriculture, and now the Green Acres Program changes for the worse.
The state Legislature needs to fix this by repealing these changes first thing in January and look at how to make farming in Minnesota easier, not more difficult.