Assessor: Senate bill will hurt local agriculture

By Observer Upload March 14, 2013 09:10 am

by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer

If Senate Bill 443 passes the state legislature, anyone with land deemed an exclusive farm unit would qualify for a special tax rate, whether the ground is farmed or not.

Under Oregon law, to qualify for a special tax assessment, land zoned exclusively for farming must be farmed or grazed, either by the landowner or a lessee.

Wallowa County Assessor Gay Fregulia told the Wallowa County commissioners she thinks this is a bad bill and will hurt the agriculture community. She said if more land goes out of production, then equipment, fuel, and even labor may decrease. 

“If we have a situation where lands are no longer used for agriculture it will have a similar impact as the loss of timber,” said Fregulia. “Our economy is still tied to agriculture.”

Fregulia addressed the board of commissioners asking that they contact legislators in Salem about Senate Bill 443’s impact on rural economies. Board Chairman Mike Hayward agreed and said, “It affects everything.”

The special assessment was created in the 1940s to make it affordable for farmers to pay tax on land they own. Senate Bill 443 would allow for that special assessment regardless of use Fregulia said, “There are not a lot of farm jobs, but every job lost has an impact.”