House panel OKs farm preservation tax breaks

March 17, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland farmers would get tax breaks for preserving their land under legislation approved by a House of Delegates committee Thursday.

But the Ways and Means Committee rejected two other farm-related tax credits that were proposed by a local lawmaker.

Although they still need to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly, the proposed tax breaks for farmland preservation cleared a major step with committee approval.

Under the plan, farmers who sell their land to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation would not have to pay state capital gains tax on the profits.

Those who donate their land to the Maryland Environmental Trust would get a tax credit equal to half of the land's value.


The legislation is similar to a bill introduced by Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, who had wanted to eliminate capital gains for a number of farmland preservation programs.

"I consider it to be a victory. I'm just proud to be a part of it all," Shank said.

The committee defeated two other agricultural tax credits suggested by committee member Del. Joseph Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington.

One would have given tax breaks to farmers who take advantage of the latest technology in agriculture.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management said the bill would have doubled an existing tax break.

Bartlett said that was not his intention. He hopes to revise the bill and come back next year.

The other tax break was geared toward making it easier for farmers to hire and keep workers.

The bill would have cost the state an estimated $1.9 million and the committee didn't want to single out one industry for a tax break, Bartlett said.

Bartlett said he will continue to argue that farmers need special consideration, especially in light of the environmental regulations the state has placed on them.

"If we want to retain agriculture, we have to provide an atmosphere where they can be profitable," he said.

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