Florida’s burgeoning marijuana industry was alight with joy Thursday as Sen. Ben Albritton‘s agritourism bill cleared its final committee meeting before a full Senate vote.
The bill (SB 1186) clears up language regarding how lands used for agritourism are taxed. Currently, agricultural lands used for a “bona fide” purpose are taxed at a lower “assessed” value than other properties, which are taxed based on their “just” value, the land’s highest value. The lower tax rate serves as an incentive for farmers to keep agricultural land instead of turning more of a profit by selling the same land for a different use, like retail or building condos.
Agritourism, or the practice of educating the public by using agricultural land for tourism opportunities, is a growing business across Florida and the country. Adding agritourism experiences to lands can help supplement revenue on a struggling farm. But with additional uses on the land, there could be a loophole allowing a property appraiser to reclassify the land, as agritourism doesn’t necessarily count as “bona fide agricultural activity.”
Not so, says Albritton’s bill. SB 1186 clears up statutory language by removing the requirement that agritourism be a secondary stream of revenue for a bona fide agricultural operation, allowing more agritourism operations to qualify for those tax benefits. It also prohibits a property appraiser from denying agricultural status due to construction or maintenance of a non-dwelling structure for agritourism activity. Instead, that structure would be assessed at the “just” value separately and added to the lower “assessed” value of the agricultural land to create a hybrid tax platform.
The state has encouraged farms to participate in agritourism as a way to promote Florida agriculture. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, agritourism dollars tripled nationally between 2002 and 2017. The USDA’s numbers from that time, the latest available, showed Florida generating about $15.7 million per year from agritourism.
And that’s before the state massively expanded its hemp production and cultivation following the passage of new medical marijuana laws in 2016. Melissa Villar, director of the Holistic Cannabis Community, said Florida has close to 800 hemp cultivators and 7,000 retailers in the state now. She said laws like SB 1186 help promote farms and give them the freedom to invite the public onto their lands for education and entertainment.
She said it’s already helping North Florida farms.
“We had many families travel out to Monticello, Jefferson County, to participate in experiencing the row cropping of the hemp plants and we provided food, live music entertainment,” she said. “It was quite a wonderful experience for everyone who participated.”
Rep. Josie Tomkow sponsored similar legislation in the House.