Farmers Applaud Governor's Tax Plan


He votes in Gibbon, belongs in the Shelton school district, all from a Kenesaw address. Whoever he's paying taxes to, Myles Ramsey thinks he's paid his share.

And that's because of the skyrocketing price of Nebraska farm ground.

Ramsey said, "Valuations of property have increased so much and the tax burden goes up with that, but you only realize that increase value if you sell it, and most farmers buy land for the long run for children and grandchildren."

According to ag economists at the University of Nebraska, irrigated land that sold for around $1,100 an acre 20 years ago is now worth around $10,000 an acre.

Farm Bureau members like Myles say the ones who benefit from the high land values are those selling. Those who hold on, and most do, see only higher property taxes.

"The tax burden could be the difference between a profit and a loss year," he explained.

That's why they're thrilled the governor has endorsed a proposal from Nebraska Farm Bureau.

During his State of the State address Heineman said, "Ag land valuations have gone up so dramatically compared to residential and commercial, what you've seen happen is a shift of property taxes to farmers and ranchers. Bringing valuation to 65 percent would bring it back in balance."

In other words, at least for tax purposes, the value of farm land would go down.

Myles Ramsey said, "It's not like we want a free ride, just a little reduction to offset some of this increase in valuations."

It's a turnaround for Governor Heineman, who last year frustrated farmers with a plan that would have raised taxes on farm equipment and feed.

Ramsey said, "We were just shocked when that came out."

The governor's new plan has critics, but many senators agree they need to make at least simple changes to help farmers.

Ramsey helped draft Farm Bureau's tax proposal. He said, "You take and make drastic changes, you're going to derail the whole system. I think they're wise to make smaller, incremental changes, see how that affects other aspects of tax code and maybe make more changes after the dust settles."

The governor's final offer is just the one farmers like Myles Ramsey wanted to see.

He said, "We applaud the governor, he's been a good leader in the state, it's going to be sad to see him go."

Central Nebraska lawmakers do appear somewhat agreeable on this point that property taxes should be addressed, but now it's up to the Legislature to act.