The Florida Legislature Tuesday passed a bill that would make clear agriculture-related property tax benefits include farms engaged in the state’s growing agritourism industry.
The bill (SB 1186) sponsored by Republican Sen. Ben Albritton is now ready for the Governor’s signature. It received bipartisan support in the House and Senate and would go into effect July 1.
Albritton’s bill updates current state law dictating how agricultural lands are taxed to include non-traditional practices. As it stands, agricultural lands used for a “bona fide” purpose are taxed at a lower “assessed” value. Other properties 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.”
SB 1186 helps close those loopholes. It removes a requirement that agritourism be a secondary stream of revenue for a bona fide agricultural operation. That will allow 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.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agritourism dollars tripled nationally between 2002 and 2017. According to the USDA, Florida generated about $15.7 million from agritourism in 2017.
Florida has encouraged more farmers and producers to participate in agritourism as a way to support and promote Florida Agriculture.