Caucus supports repeal of ‘sound’ management plan mandate for forest land

The Citizens Constitutional Caucus has endorsed a bill to repeal the mandate for forest land owners to submit a “sound management plan” in order to qualify for a lowered property tax rate. House Bill 586 PUV/Repeal Forest Planning Requirement was introduced by Rep Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus).

“The Citizens Constitutional Caucus believes HB 586 is beneficial for our state because it will promote freedom in agriculture, reduce unnecessary government control over farmers, and increase productivity in the farming industry,” said Katherine Bredehoeft, co-chair of the caucus’ Farm and Forest Property Protection Task Force.

“It will also protect the God-given right of private property ownership and help reduce the detrimental effects of the misguided planning policy of ‘sustainability’ on our state economy.”

For years, the state has used the standard of “present use value” to help lower the property tax burden on desirable industries, such as farming, thatare using land in a way that generates less income than other industries. PUV provides a way for a state to encourage beneficial industries that it wants to promote for economic and other reasons by providing a property tax break.

The General Assembly slipped the intrusive requirement for a ‘sound’ management plan into an otherwise beneficial law in 2002, Bredehoeft explained. “It is one of the so-called sustainability provisions contained in Agenda 21, a plan developed by the UN Conference on Environment and Development.”

“This means that the bureaucratic advisory board they set up by the rest of the law gets to dictate what the details of a written sound management plan are,” said Bredehoeft. “The farmer either has to get the state forestry department to write his plan for free, or else pay a forester who is licensed to do plans to write one,” she explained.

She noted that these plans have become more stringent over the years as the forestry department promotes more and more Agenda 21 policies.

But she said that the most egregious injustice of this policy is that if the farmer loses PUV status, they not only have to start paying higher property taxes in the future, but the state also forces them to pay back the money they saved by the lowered property tax for three years retroactively.

“Since the PUV rate is usually about a third the regular tax rate and most of the farms have large acreage, this huge tax bill would bankrupt the farmer.,” Bredehoeft said. Essentially this means once a farmer agrees to the sound management plan, they are locked in it forever.

“It’s a no-win situation for the farmer,” Bredehoeft said.

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