CAFOs and CAUV figured prominently in the discussion Ohio Farmers Union delegates had during the organization’s recent annual convention.
To help avoid another harmful algae bloom in Lake Erie and other waterways, the OFU is proposing the Ohio Department of Agriculture prepare an accurate assessment of all livestock operations within each watershed in the state.
“Part of the solution to our ag nutrient problem is to avoid overloading livestock into watersheds – beyond the capacity of the cropland to utilize those nutrients,” said Joe Logan, OFU president. “Because the department of agriculture now oversees both the Concentrated Animal Feeding peration permitting program as well as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, they have access to this valuable data and the capacity to aggregate it in a way that would safeguard farmer’s proprietary information, while compiling it in a way that would be extremely useful in developing a comprehensive strategy to manage nutrient runoff.
“We need data on all the livestock operations in our watersheds, not just the animals raised by licensed CAFOs. It’s a common sense, next step in the policy-making process to clean up watersheds like the western basin of Lake Erie.”
Taking steps at the state and local level to manage run-off from farm fields and large-scale operations could forestall the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from having to step in with more “draconian measures,” he said.
Saying the recent rise in property taxes are becoming an “existential threat” to family farmers and rural landowners in the state, Logan said it’s time to reform the Current Agricultural Use Valuation tax program.
Under CAUV, farmland is assessed according to its agricultural value rather than full market value. It applies to landowners with 10 or more acres dedicated to commercial agricultural use. If under 10 acres are devoted exclusively to commercial agricultural, the farm must produce an average yearly gross income of at least $2,500.
The OFU is contending the formula used to calculate farmland valuations under CAUV hasn’t worked since 2011 due to historically low interest rates and other economic factors.
“In recent years, our farmers have suffered increases in CAUV of 300 to 600 percent, while ag commodities have plummeted,” Logan said.
Delegates to the convention narrowly missed passing a proposal to push for a tax value of zero for woodlands, which are also eligible for CAUV.
“Woodlands owners are taking it on the chin in terms of taxes they pay versus the revenue those acres generate. Considering the environmental benefits that forests provide, we need to adjust tax rates to encourage more woodlands. The fact that we had a lengthy debate on our convention floor about zero tax values for woodlands should wake up policy makers in Columbus about the need to revamp CAUV,” he said.
Two bills stalled in the legislature late last year that would have amended the CAUV formula to better reflect agricultural factors by eliminating equity accumulation and taxing acreage enrolled in conservation programs at the lowest allowable value.