Farming is set to get a bit more expensive in County Wythe, which some farmers say could push agricultural businesses out of the area.
County Tax Commissioner Faye Barker announced that she plans to slightly increase land use assessment amounts for farm real estate during this year’s reassessment. Barker says she plans to raise the assessed value of farmland from $550 to $600 per acre.
“The $550 per acre assessed value has been in place since 2007 and we just feel that to keep up with inflation it’s necessary,” said two-term Commissioner Barker.
At the current tax rate, this increase will be equivalent to less than a $0.25 increase in total property taxes paid per acre on land currently enrolled in this program. It may not seem like much, but farmers who own hundreds of acres of land say it only adds to the industry’s already high costs.
Under the Virginia Land Use Program, revenue commissioners have the authority to assess real estate based on “use value” instead of “fair market value” for certain land used for farming.
Through this program, farmland owners who apply and meet the eligibility requirements have seen their farmland receive a “use value” of $550 per acre, instead of a “fair market value” of approximately $3,000 to $5,000 per assessed acre in pasture, open land, and cropland (or just farmland).
The land use program provides valuable tax savings to the farming community of approximately $900,000 per year in property taxes.
Raising the values by $50 might not seem too bad. But a County Wythe couple who own about 10 acres of land said they couldn’t afford any tax hikes because they lived off Social Security.
Another farmer, Charles Stroupe, said he wouldn’t be so against the increase if he was able to earn more money.
“Well, it would be nice if our cattle went up, but it goes down all the time. If they want to raise the price, they should consider how much we have to spend from our profits,” Strupe says.
He said the industry has almost been cut in half in just a few years.
“Two years ago, a load of cattle in a tractor-trailer was $100,000. Now it’s $60,000. It’s a 50,000-pound load,” Stroupe said.
Another cattle rancher living in the area said it was getting harder and harder to farm with the costs as they are. Stroupe worries that higher costs, without the profits to back them up, could close some farms.
“Pretty much all the dairies are gone, the pig farms are gone, the sheep farms are gone, there’s just cattle left and the prices keep going down, so eventually we’ll get out too,” Stroupe said.
Stroupe, who already pays $6,000 a year in taxes for his more than 700 acres, said if they grow much more he may have to sell some of the land that has been in his family for decades.
Wythe County still prides itself on its low taxes, despite this increase.
Neighboring Grayson County does not participate in the land use program, and Bland County’s land use value is set at $850.
By increasing Wythe County’s land use value by $50, Commissioner Barker will make Wythe County’s value even with Carroll County’s land use rate of $600.