A bill that would require an improvement on agricultural land to be assessed as agricultural property under specified circumstances passed the Maryland Senate with MACo amendments to clarify that any activities or improvements are subject to local zoning laws.
As introduced, SB 567 would have required that an improvement located on land that qualifies for an agricultural use assessment be assessed as agricultural property if the improvement is related to (1) the manufacture, packaging, storage, promotion, or sale of a value-added agricultural product, including a dairy product derived from ingredients produced on the agricultural land or any associated agricultural land; (2) specified agricultural alcohol production; or (3) specified agritourism. Further, the bill specified that counties issue refunds for related property taxes paid between January 1, 2021, and June 1, 2022.
Maryland was the first state to formally adopt a policy providing lower assessments on land actively devoted to farming or woodland uses. It is called the “agricultural use assessment” and applies to farmland or woodland that meets the criteria outlined in state law.
Many counties are interested in promoting agricultural tourism to support the agricultural industry. Agritourism can be a means to keeping farms profitable during times of low production, and it offers opportunities to highlight Maryland counties’ unique agrarian assets. However, MACo opposed the bill as introduced, as counties were concerned with the carryover county fiscal effects and preemption of local zoning laws.
After working with the bill sponsor and proponents to secure amendments that address county concerns, MACo dropped its opposition to the bill. The amendments specify that for an improvement to qualify for the agricultural use assessment, it must be “an accessory use on an actively used farm.” In addition, the amendments clarify that any activities or improvements are subject to “permissible local zoning uses of agricultural land” and strike the requirement that counties issue retroactive property tax refunds.
SB 567 has a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 29. The bill’s crossfile, HB 1282, was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 1.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.
More on MACo’s Advocacy:
Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2022 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database
Learn more about MACo’s 2022 Legislative Initiatives
Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog