West

STOW

Stow lawmaker aims to protect family farms

Democratic state Representative Kate Hogan of Stow has filed a bill that aims to preserve family farms across the commonwealth by changing the method for taxing inherited agricultural land.

According to a Hogan, current Massachusetts estate tax laws can force farmland into development. She said the land is taxed based on the most profitable use, which is often development, not agriculture. As a result, many people inheriting farmland end up selling portions of the land in order to pay a large estate tax.

To encourage owners to keep their farmland in agriculture, the proposed legislation offers a person inheriting farmland options for how their estate is taxed.

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Upon property transfer, both the “agricultural” use value and the “highest and best” use value of the land would be determined. If a person inherits a farm, and they choose to have their land valued based on its current use – agriculture – for the purposes of estate taxation, the resulting estate tax bill would be lower.

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If the owner decides to sell the land within 10 years, for purposes other than agriculture, he or she would then pay back taxes for the remaining period of the 10 years.

“This bill looks to the future of agriculture in Massachusetts by protecting family farms across the Commonwealth,” Hogan said in a press release. “As a legislator representing dozens of farms, apple orchards, Christmas tree farms, nurseries, and wineries, I know how vital multi-generation farms are to our communities’ economy and character.”

Hogan represents close to 30 farms in the Third Middlesex District, which comprises the towns of Bolton, Hudson, Maynard, and Stow.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.