SENATE, No. 589

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  JENNIFER BECK

District 11 (Monmouth)

Senator  STEPHEN M. SWEENEY

District 3 (Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Revises certain provisions of farmland assessment law.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning farmland assessment, amending and supplementing P.L.1964, c.48, and repealing section 1 of P.L.1968, c.455 (C.54:4-23.13a).

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  (New section)  a.  For the purposes of sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.3 and C.54:4-23.4), and in addition to the requirements and provisions prescribed by those sections, land shall be deemed to be in agricultural use when devoted to the production for sale of:

     (1) dairy animals and dairy products, poultry and poultry products, or livestock only if the land meets the minimum livestock carrying capacity standard or minimum poultry carrying capacity standard, as appropriate, for the animals;

     (2) crops, only if the land meets the cropping intensity standard for that crop; or

     (3) honeybees, honeybee or apiary products, or pollen or nectar for honeybees, only if the applicant submits at the time of application for eligibility of the land for valuation, assessment and taxation under P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.) an annual site specific commercial bee and rotational crop management plan approved by the Department of Agriculture and implemented throughout the tax year.

     b.  The Department of Agriculture shall adopt, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), and within one year after the date of enactment of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), rules and regulations (1) establishing, for the purposes of this section and sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.3 and C.54:4-23.4), minimum livestock carrying capacity standards, minimum poultry carrying capacity standards, and cropping intensity standards, and (2) implementing the requirements of paragraph (3) of subsection a. of this section.

     c.  The Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, shall annually offer, free of charge, a six-hour continuing education course to municipal tax assessors, county tax administrators, and other appropriate local government officials on cropping intensity, minimum livestock carrying capacities, and minimum poultry carrying capacities for land actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use.

     d.  The State Board of Agriculture, the Department of
Agriculture, and the Department of Environmental Protection shall consult with the New Jersey Forestry Association and the New Jersey Division of the Society of American Foresters on any issues pertaining to woodland management and the “Farmland Assessment Act of 1964,” P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.).

 

     2.  Section 4 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.4) is amended to read as follows:

     4.  Land shall be deemed to be in horticultural use when devoted to the production for sale of fruits of all kinds, including grapes, nuts and berries; vegetables; nursery, floral, ornamental and greenhouse products; or when devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the Federal Government , provided that the land meets the appropriate cropping intensity standard for the horticultural crop as prescribed by the Department of Agriculture pursuant to section 1 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

(cf:  P.L.1964, c.48, s.4)

 

     3.  Section 5 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.5) is amended to read as follows:

     5.  a.  Land, five acres in area, shall be deemed to be actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use when the amount of the gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products produced thereon, any payments received under a soil conservation program, fees received for breeding, raising or grazing any livestock, income imputed to cropland pastured and permanent pasture land used for grazing in the amount determined by the State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee created pursuant to section 20 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.20), and fees received for boarding, rehabilitating or training any livestock where the land under the boarding, rehabilitating or training facilities is contiguous to land which otherwise qualifies for valuation, assessment and taxation under this act, have averaged at least [$500.00] $1,000 per year during the two-year period immediately preceding the tax year in issue, or there is clear evidence of anticipated yearly gross sales and such payments amounting to at least [$500.00] $1,000 within a reasonable period of time.  Every three years, the State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee shall review the $1,000 minimum gross sales and payments requirement of this section, and may, by rule or regulation adopted pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), raise the amount of that minimum to such level as the committee determines appropriate.

     In addition, where the land is more than five acres in area, it shall be deemed to be actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use when the amount of the gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products produced on the area above five acres, any payments received under a soil conservation program, fees received for breeding, raising or grazing any livestock, income imputed to cropland pastured and permanent pasture land used for grazing in the amount determined by the State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee created pursuant to section 20 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.20), and fees received for boarding, rehabilitating or training any livestock where the land under the boarding, rehabilitating or training facilities is contiguous to land which otherwise qualifies for valuation, assessment and taxation under this act, have averaged at least $5.00 per acre per year during the two-year period immediately preceding the tax year in issue, or there is clear evidence of anticipated yearly gross sales and such payments amounting to an average of at least $5.00 per year within a reasonable period of time; except in the case of woodland and wetland, where the minimum requirement shall be an average of $0.50 per acre on the area above five acres.

     As used in this section, "livestock" shall not include dogs.

     For the purposes of this section, the presence of an intervening public thoroughfare shall not preclude a finding of contiguity.

     b.  Land previously qualified as actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use under the act; but failing to meet the additional requirement on acreage above five acres , or failing to meet the increase in the minimum amount of gross sales, payments and fees received, and imputed income required pursuant to subsection a. of this section as amended by section 3 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), shall not be subject to the roll-back tax because of such disqualification, but shall be treated as land for which an annual application has not been submitted.

     c.  In determining the eligibility of land for valuation, assessment and taxation pursuant to P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), the assessor of the taxing district in which the land is located shall, upon request by the owner of the land, exempt the owner from the income requirements of this section if the owner demonstrates to the satisfaction of the assessor that the failure to meet the income requirements was due to an injury, illness or death of the person responsible for performing the activities which produce the income necessary to meet the income eligibility requirement of this section.  The request of the owner shall be accompanied by a certificate of a physician stating that the person was physically incapacitated or by a certified copy of the death certificate, as the case may be.  The assessor may only grant an exemption once for a particular illness, injury or death.

(cf:  P.L.1995, c.276, s.2)


     4.  Section 8 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.8) is amended to read as follows:

     8.    When land which is in agricultural or horticultural use and is being valued, assessed and taxed under the provisions of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), is applied to a use other than agricultural or horticultural, it shall be subject to additional taxes, hereinafter referred to as roll-back taxes, in an amount equal to the difference, if any, between the taxes paid or payable on the basis of the valuation and the assessment authorized hereunder and the taxes that would have been paid or payable had the land been valued, assessed and taxed as other land in the taxing district, in the current tax year (the year of change in use) and in such of the two tax years immediately preceding, in which the land was valued, assessed and taxed as herein provided.

     If the tax year in which a change in use of the land occurs, the land was not valued, assessed and taxed under P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), then such land shall be subject to roll-back taxes for such of the two tax years, immediately preceding, in which the land was valued, assessed and taxed hereunder.

     Notwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, land which is valued, assessed and taxed under the provisions of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.) and is acquired by the State, a local government unit, a qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organization, or the Palisades Interstate Park Commission for recreation and conservation purposes shall not be subject to roll-back taxes.  As used in this section, "acquired," "local government unit," "qualifying tax exempt nonprofit organization," and "recreation and conservation purposes" mean the same as those terms are defined pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1999, c.152 (C.13:8C-3).

     In determining the amounts of the roll-back taxes chargeable on land which has undergone a change in use, the assessor shall for each of the roll-back tax years involved, ascertain:

     (a)   The full and fair value of such land under the valuation standard applicable to other land in the taxing district;

     (b)   The amount of the land assessment for the particular tax year by multiplying such full and fair value by the county percentage level, as determined by the county board of taxation in accordance with section 3 of P.L.1960, c.51 (C.54:4-2.27);

     (c)   The amount of the additional assessment on the land for the particular tax year by deducting the amount of the actual assessment on the land for that year from the amount of the land assessment determined under (b) hereof; and

     (d)   The amount of the roll-back tax for that tax year by multiplying the amount of the additional assessment determined under (c) hereof by the general property tax rate of the taxing district applicable for that tax year.

     Land previously qualified as actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use under P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), but failing to meet the additional requirements of section 1 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) or the additional cropping intensity requirements for horticultural crops of section 4 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.4) added by section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), shall not be subject to the roll-back tax because of such disqualification, but shall be treated as land for which an annual application has not been submitted.

(cf:  P.L.2001, c.312, s.2)

 

     5.  Section 14 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.14) is amended to read as follows:

     14.  a.  Application for valuation, assessment and taxation of land in agricultural or horticultural use under this act shall be on a form prescribed by the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, and provided for the use of claimants by the governing bodies of the respective taxing districts.  The form of application shall provide for the reporting of information pertinent to the provisions of Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 1(b) of the Constitution, as amended, and this act.  The applicant shall include with the form of application, in a manner prescribed by the director, proofs of sales or clear evidence of anticipated gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products, and of any other payments, fees, or income received from the agricultural or horticultural use of the land, in the prior year, amounting to at least $1,000 for the first five acres.  A certification by the landowner that the facts set forth in the application are true may be prescribed by the director to be in lieu of a sworn statement to that effect.  Statements so certified shall be considered as if made under oath and subject to the same penalties as provided by law for perjury.  Any landowner, except those who have submitted a woodland management plan pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.3), who is an applicant for valuation, assessment and taxation pursuant to P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.) for lands not previously qualified under the act shall submit with the application a map of land use classes and soil groups that conforms with standards established by the Division of Taxation in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture.

     b.  The director shall devise a form for the extension of filing time for the valuation application, which form shall include the name and address of the applicant, the reason for the extension, and a space for the approval or rejection of the assessor.

(cf:  P.L.1995, c.276, s.7)

 

     6.  Section 20 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.20) is amended to read as follows:

     20.  There is hereby created a State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee, the  members of which shall be the Director of the Division of Taxation; the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Rutgers, The State University; and the Secretary of Agriculture.  The committee shall meet from time to time on the call of the Secretary of Agriculture and annually determine and publish a range of values for each of the several classifications of land in agricultural and horticultural use in the various areas of the State.  The primary objective of the committee shall be the determination of the ranges in fair value of such land based upon its productive capabilities when devoted to agricultural or horticultural uses.  In making these annual determinations of value, the committee shall consider available evidence of agricultural or horticultural capability derived from the soil survey at Rutgers, The State University, the National Co-operative Soil Survey, and such other evidence of value of land devoted exclusively to agricultural or horticultural uses as it may in its judgment deem pertinent.  On or before October 1 of each year, the committee shall make these ranges of fair value available to the assessing authority in each of the taxing districts in which land in agricultural and horticultural use is located.

     The committee shall also conduct the periodic review of the minimum gross sales and payments requirement in order for land which is actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use to be eligible for valuation, assessment and taxation under the provisions of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), as prescribed by section 5 of P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.5).

     Every five years, the committee shall review the application form or forms for valuation, assessment and taxation of land in agricultural or horticultural use pursuant to P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.), and provide any recommendations the committee may have thereon to the Director of the Division of Taxation.

(cf:  P.L.1964, c.48, s.20)

 

     7.  Section 1 of P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b) is amended to read as follows:

     1.  a.  All tax assessor certificates issued prior to the effective date of P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b et al.) shall expire five years following that effective date and shall be renewed in accordance with the procedure established in this section.  All tax assessor certificates issued on or after the effective date of P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b et al.) shall expire five years after the issuance of the certificate and shall be renewed in accordance with the procedure established in this section.

     (1)   All tax assessor certificates shall be renewed upon application, payment of the required renewal fee, and verification that the applicant has met continuing education requirements, as set forth in paragraph (2) and paragraph (3) of this subsection.  After the initial expiration of any tax assessor certificates following the effective date of P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b et al.), each renewal period shall thereafter be for a period of three years.  The renewal date shall be 30 days prior to the expiration date of the tax assessor certificate.

     (2)   Prior to the first renewal date of a tax assessor certificate pursuant to P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b et al.) every applicant for renewal shall, on a form prescribed by the Director of the Division of Taxation, furnish proof of having earned a total of at least 50 continuing education credit hours over the prior five-year period.  Thereafter, prior to each succeeding renewal date of a tax assessor certificate, every applicant for renewal shall, on a form prescribed by the Director of the Division of Taxation, furnish proof of having earned a total of at least 30 continuing education credit hours over the prior three-year period.  For the purposes of this section, one continuing education credit hour means 50 minutes of classroom or lecture time.  After verifying that the applicant has fulfilled the continuing education requirement and after receiving a fee of not less than $50 paid by the applicant to the order of the Treasurer of the State of New Jersey, the Director of the Division of Taxation shall renew the tax assessor certificate.  The Director of the Division of Taxation shall determine, by regulation, the circumstances under which an extension of time to complete the requirements for continuing education may be granted by the director.

     (3) Commencing January 1, 2014, for any tax assessor of a municipality in which 20 or more Class 3B (Farm Qualified) properties subject to valuation, assessment and taxation pursuant to P.L.1964, c.48 (C.54:4-23.1 et seq.) are located, prior to every renewal date of a tax assessor certificate issued to that tax assessor pursuant to P.L.1999, c.278 (C.54:1-35.25b et al.) the applicant for renewal shall, on a form prescribed by the Director of the Division of Taxation, furnish proof of having taken, at least once in the prior three years, the six-hour continuing education course concerning certain aspects of farmland assessment required to be offered, free of charge, by the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, pursuant to subsection c. of section 1 of P.L.    , c.    (C.    ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     b.    There is established within the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury the Tax Assessor Continuing Education Eligibility Board.  The board shall consist of six members and be comprised as follows:  the Director of the Division of Taxation or his designee, the President of the Association of Municipal Assessors, and the President of the New Jersey Association of County Tax Board Commissioners and County Tax Administrators shall be permanent members.  The Director of the Division of Taxation and the President of the Association of Municipal Assessors shall each appoint an additional member who shall serve for a term of two years.  The Director of Government Services at Rutgers University shall serve ex officio.  Any vacancy in the membership of the board shall be filled for the unexpired term in the manner provided by the original appointment.  The first meeting of the board shall be held at the call of the Director of the Division of Taxation, and thereafter the board shall meet annually and shall hold at least one additional meeting within each 12-month period.  The board shall establish the curriculum areas and the number of hours in each curriculum area that an assessor shall complete in order to renew certification.

     c.     When the holder of a tax assessor certificate has allowed the certificate to lapse by failing to renew the certificate, a new application and certificate shall be required.  If application is made within six months of the expiration of the certificate, then application may be made in the same manner as a renewal, but with an additional late renewal fee of $50.

     d.    The Director of the Division of Taxation, in accordance with the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), shall adopt such regulations as are necessary to effectuate the provisions of this section.

(cf:  P.L.1999, c.278, s.1)

 

     8.  Section 1 of P.L.1968, c.455 (C.54:4-23.13a) is repealed.

 

     9.  This act shall take effect immediately, except that sections 1, 2, and 4 of this act shall be applicable to tax years commencing with tax year 2010.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would make various revisions to the “Farmland Assessment Act of 1964” that would help ensure that its provisions benefit true farmers and thereby help preserve and promote agriculture as an industry and way of life in the Garden State to the benefit of all citizens.

     This bill would raise from $500 to $1,000 the minimum gross sales and payments qualifying standard for farmland assessment on the first five acres of land.  The bill further would require the State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee to review this minimum every three years and authorize that committee to adopt regulations to raise the amount of that minimum to a level the committee determines appropriate after completing each such review.  That committee would also be required every five years to generally review the farmland assessment form and to make recommendations thereon to the Director of the Division of Taxation.  The bill would also provide that income imputed to land used for grazing would be income imputed to cropland pastured as well as permanent pasture land used for grazing.

     The bill also would require farmland assessment applicants to include with the application proofs of sales or clear evidence of anticipated gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products, and of any other payments, fees, or income received from the agricultural or horticultural use of the land, in the prior year, amounting to at least $1,000 for the first five acres.

     The bill also would provide that, starting with tax year 2010, in addition to the requirements and provisions of current law, land would be deemed to be in agricultural or horticultural use for farmland assessment purposes when devoted to the production for sale of:

     (1) dairy animals and dairy products, poultry and poultry products, or livestock only if the land meets the minimum livestock carrying capacity standard or minimum poultry carrying capacity standard, as appropriate, for the animals, as those standards are to be defined in regulations to be adopted within one year by the Department of Agriculture;

     (2) crops, only if the land meets the cropping intensity standard for that crop, as those standards are to be defined in regulations to be adopted within one year by the Department of Agriculture; or

     (3) honeybees, honeybee or apiary products, or pollen or nectar for honeybees, only if the applicant submits an annual site specific commercial bee and rotational crop management plan approved by the Department of Agriculture and implemented throughout the tax year.

     Because this bill establishes new and more stringent standards to qualify for farmland assessment, landowners who previously met the farmland assessment standards under the current law but cannot or do not meet the new standards will not be required to pay the roll-back tax at the time of that disqualification provided they do not abandon the agricultural use.  However, because at that point the property would no longer be farmland assessed under the new standards, the landowner will then, and thereafter, be required to pay the full property taxes on the land just as any other property taxpayer who does not own farmland must do.

     The bill further would provide that starting January 1, 2014, for any tax assessor of a municipality in which 20 or more Class 3B (Farm Qualified) properties (that is, properties that are farmland assessed) are located, the tax assessor, as a condition of relicensing, must provide proof of having taken, at least once in the prior three years, the six-hour continuing education course concerning certain aspects of farmland assessment required under the bill to be offered, free of charge, by the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture.

     The bill would further require the State Board of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Environmental Protection to consult with the New Jersey Forestry Association and the New Jersey Division of the Society of American Foresters on any issues pertaining to woodland management and farmland assessment.

     Lastly, the bill would repeal section 1 of P.L.1968, c.455 (C.54:4-23.13a) concerning the timely submittal of certain farmland assessment applications because it is no longer applicable.