Nebraska

Aug. 1 is the deadline for agricultural property owners to apply for a special greenbelt valuation for their land, but some are encountering minor problems when they contact their county assessor's office, Nebraska Farm Bureau's Jay Rempe said.

"Nebraska's greenbelt laws have been around a while, but since they apply only to zoned counties, some county assessors haven't been familiar with them. Now, with so many more counties adopting zoning, more ag land owners are eligible to use them," he said. Rempe, an agricultural economist, is director of state governmental relations for Nebraska Farm Bureau.

Nebraska's Constitution and state law allow land devoted to an agricultural use to be "greenbelted"--valued for property tax purposes at the value the land has in an agricultural use, Rempe said. "Greenbelting allows county assessors to ignore non-agricultural influences upon the land's value when establishing assessed values. This is important in urban areas, where cities are expanding into farmland, and in areas of the state where ag land has been purchased at a premium for other uses, such as recreation. Without greenbelt, those sales push up the valuation of ag land," he said. Essentially, greenbelt reduces the property tax burden on ag land, when the burden is unduly influenced by nonagricultural factors, he said.

Land that is greenbelted is given a "special valuation," which is defined as 80% of the actual value the land would have for agricultural uses, without regard to its value for other uses. "In establishing special valuation, county assessors attempt to sort out the non-agricultural influences on the value of property, and then value the property considering only those influences related to its agricultural uses," Rempe said.

"Some county assessors have little experience with this, because their counties only recently have been zoned," he said. The state property tax administrator has issued rules and regulations to guide county assessors in making special valuation determinations.

Land is eligible for a greenbelt designation if it meets four criteria:

--The land must be located outside the boundaries of a sanitary and improvement district, city or village.

--The land must be in a zoned county, and be zoned predominately for agricultural use.

--The land must not be subdivided into two or more parcels, either of which is less than 10 acres.

--The land must be used exclusively for the production of agricultural and horticultural products.

Greenbelted land that is later sold for a nonagricultural purpose is subject to "recapture taxes," based on what its valuation would have been without greenbelt, Rempe said.

Next year, the greenbelt application will be June 1.

For more details and questions and answers about greenbelting, visit the Nebraska Farm Bureau Website, www.fb.org/nefb/

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