Land Use Assessment is a valuable tool in Virginia to allow localities to manage growth and provide tax equity. This method more closely aligns taxes with the productive value of the land in its current use. In addition, it more closely aligns taxes with the local government cost of providing services to qualifying land. The program is local option.
A lot of folks don’t realize the complexity in developing the values. The State Land Evaluation Advisory Council (SLEAC) contracts annually with the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (VTAAE) at Virginia Tech to develop an objective methodology for estimating the use value of land in agricultural and horticultural uses, with the Virginia Department of Forestry for the use value of land in forestry, and with the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the use value of land in open space.
SLEAC meets during a meeting held in the first two weeks in August where each agency presents preliminary estimates for the following year. These preliminary estimates are open for comment for 30 days. It’s during this time the Governmental Relations staff relays question from County Farm Bureaus and seek more information from the agency that calculated the estimates. After the 30-day period SLEAC meets again to vote on the estimates then they are posted on the use-value website in October.
To calculate the agricultural land values VTAAE uses the most recent USDA Agricultural Census for planting and production numbers they use this information to create a “composite farm” for each county. In June of this year VTAAE published a comparison of the jurisdictional changes in harvested and composite farm acreage with information from the 2012 ag census and the most recent 2017 report. You can review the comparison on the Virginia’s Use-Value Assessment Program website or click here.
Because information is used from the USDA agricultural census it makes it vital that all farmers respond to the USDAs census surveys. I will admit, I dreaded seeing those forms in the mailbox, but have learned the value of responding. It our opportunity to provide accurate information in the process. So next time you see that envelop, take a deep breath and set a time to complete the survey. It’s crucial for the land use assessment program.
The 2020 land use value estimates have been posted online and you can not only see the values for each category, you can see brochures that show detailed information for the data used and crops making up the counties’ composite farm. Review the information at the Virginia’s Use-Value Assessment Program website.
The average change in value for all counties that have land use assessment was a decrease of $61/acre from last year. The SLEAC values are based on a 7-year Olympic average where the highest and lowest values are dropped from the average. As noted from Virginia Tech, “The high grain prices from DY2010-DY2013 are beginning to lose influence in counties that have enough crop acreage of corn, wheat, barley, and/or soybeans in their composite farm.”