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Ag groups detail uncertainty farmers face as tax commission considers land productivity values

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — From the COVID-19 pandemic to labor shortages, a bevy of Missouri’s top agriculture representatives stressed the uncertainty encompassing the state’s farmers as the State Tax Commission considers land productivity values. 

Agriculture and other state officials, including Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, pointed to the pandemic, inflation, weather, COVID-19, and fertilizer costs and availability as the myriad of issues Missouri’s farmers must navigate. They spoke against approving anything that could raise farmers’ taxes and provide more uncertainty. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was among those who testified before the State Tax Commission about the uncertainties farmers are facing.

“Agriculture is at more risk than it may appear,” Mark Scott of the Missouri Corn Growers Association testified. 

State statute mandates the three-member STC establish the productivity values of agricultural land every two years which could result in a property tax increase on agricultural land. A proposed increase by the STC is subject to legislative approval. 

The last time the STC approved an increase, which the legislature signed off on, was in 2015. 

“Since early 2020, we have seen inflation and supply chain disruptions wreak havoc throughout agriculture,” Todd Hays, the Missouri Farm Bureau’s vice president, said. “Early in the pandemic, we saw meat processors slowing down production or even closing completely. This left protein providers in great flux. Some lost income and some even had to make the decision to euthanize animals without a market.” 

“Although things are improving, supply chain issues are not behind us. As we look forward to the 2022 growing season, row crop farmers are faced with great uncertainty,” Hays continued. “Many worry whether or not their inputs will be available come spring.”  

Chuck Miller of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association said reducing the tax burden is essential for growth in agriculture, particularly when it comes to attracting younger Missourians to the industry. 

Commissioners are expected to review the testimony given Tuesday and will make a decision by the end of the year. STC Chairman Gary Romine said if a local tax levy rolled back, then tax burdens could remain the same as previous years should the assessed valuations be raised.  

“What we’re looking at today is the assessed valuation. The argument is going to be: Can you talk to your counties about rollback on the levies,” Romine said. 

Aside from Romine, Victor Callahan and Will Kraus also sit on the commission. 

In a recent op-ed, Rep. J. Eggleston said if the STC does recommend an increase, “most members of the Missouri House,” including him, would be sure to reject it.