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Winslow Proposes Tax Relief Program For Working Farms

Winslow proposes tax relief program for working farms

The Town Council plans to hold a workshop Monday on the Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program.

Original article here.

WINSLOW — A proposed tax relief program intended to preserve working farmland will be presented to the Town Council during a workshop Monday.

The Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program would offer residents reimbursements on property taxes for working farmland, as long as landowners agree to place their land in a 20-year conservation easement that would prohibit development of the land.

The program was developed by the town’s Agricultural Commission in conjunction with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation and the Maine Farmland Trust.

The council workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Town Office.

The program’s purpose is to support local agriculture and protect local soil used for agriculture as well as protect natural resources and biodiversity associated with farmland, according to a program guide that the Town Office released Friday.

According to guidelines drawn up by the commission, the program would be open to landowners who own at least one parcel of at least 5 continuous acres that produce agricultural products and generate at least $2,000 a year in income. Land used for growing crops and cultivating orchards, pasture land and farm buildings would be included in the program.

According to the program rules, owners would commit to a 20-year agreement with the town that would include a conservation easement on their land, and a commitment from the town to reimburse the owner all annual property taxes in the form of a farm support payment.

Owners would have to pay a $200 fee to join the program and a $50 annual fee to continue using it. A landowner wanted to discontinue the program would have to refund to the town 100 percent of all applicable taxes paid under the arrangement, under the program rules.

Much of the land that would be eligible to join the program is already part of the state’s farmland program, which sharply reduces the taxable value of working farmland, resulting in lower taxes for farmers.

According to a Town Office analysis, if the 12 farms in Winslow joined the farm support program, it would result in a total tax shift of $12,832 annually, or a 2 percent tax increase.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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