New York Agriculture & Markets Law
Agricultural Districts; Effects
1. Agricultural assessments.
a. Any owner of land used in agricultural production within an agricultural district shall be eligible for an agricultural assessment pursuant to this section. If an applicant rents land from another for use in conjunction with the applicant’s land for the production for sale of crops, livestock or livestock products, the gross sales value of such products produced on such rented land shall be added to the gross sales value of such products produced on the land of the applicant for purposes of determining eligibility for an agricultural assessment on the land of the applicant. Such assessment shall be granted only upon an annual application by the owner of such land on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance; provided, however, that after the initial grant of agricultural assessment the annual application shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance and shall consist of only a certification by the landowner that the landowner continues to meet the eligibility requirements for receiving an agricultural assessment and seeks an agricultural assessment for the same acreage that initially received an agricultural assessment. The landowner shall maintain records documenting such eligibility which shall be provided to the assessor upon request. The landowner must apply for agricultural assessment for any change in acreage, whether land is added or removed, after the initial grant of agricultural assessment. Any new owner of the land who wishes to receive an agricultural assessment shall make an initial application for such assessment. Such applications shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance. The applicant shall furnish to the assessor such information as the commissioner of taxation and finance shall require, including classification information prepared for the applicant’s land or water bodies used in agricultural production by the soil and water conservation district office within the county, and information demonstrating the eligibility for agricultural assessment of any land used in conjunction with rented land as specified in paragraph b of subdivision four of section three hundred one of this article. Such application shall be filed with the assessor of the assessing unit on or before the appropriate taxable status date; provided, however, that (i) in the year of a revaluation or update of assessments, as those terms are defined in section one hundred two of the real property tax law, the application may be filed with the assessor no later than the thirtieth day prior to the day by which the tentative assessment roll is required to be filed by law; or
(ii) an application for such an assessment may be filed with the assessor of the assessing unit after the appropriate taxable status date but not later than the last date on which a petition with respect to complaints of assessment may be filed, where failure to file a timely application resulted from: (a) a death of the applicant’s spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, (b) an illness of the applicant or of the applicant’s spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, which actually prevents the applicant from filing on a timely basis, as certified by a licensed physician, or (c) the occurrence of a natural disaster, including, but not limited to, a flood, or the destruction of such applicant’s residence, barn or other farm building by wind, fire or flood. If the assessor is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to an agricultural assessment, the assessor shall approve the application and the land shall be assessed pursuant to this section. Not less than ten days prior to the date for hearing complaints in relation to assessments, the assessor shall mail to each applicant, who has included with the application at least one self-addressed, pre-paid envelope, a notice of the approval or denial of the application. Such notice shall be on a form prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance which shall indicate the manner in which the total assessed value is apportioned among the various portions of the property subject to agricultural assessment and those other portions of the property not eligible for agricultural assessment as determined for the tentative assessment roll and the latest final assessment roll. Failure to mail any such notice or failure of the owner to receive the same shall not prevent the levy, collection and enforcement of the payment of the taxes on such real property.
b. That portion of the value of land utilized for agricultural production within an agricultural district which represents an excess above the agricultural assessment as determined in accordance with this subdivision shall not be subject to real property taxation. Such excess amount if any shall be entered on the assessment roll in the manner prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance.
c. (i) The assessor shall utilize the agricultural assessment values per acre certified pursuant to section three hundred four-a of this article in determining the amount of the assessment of lands eligible for agricultural assessments by multiplying those values by the number of acres of land utilized for agricultural production and adjusting such result by application of the latest state equalization rate or a special equalization rate as may be established and certified by the commissioner of taxation and finance for the purpose of computing the agricultural assessment pursuant to this paragraph. This resulting amount shall be the agricultural assessment for such lands.
(ii) Where the latest state equalization rate exceeds one hundred, or where a special equalization rate which would otherwise be established for the purposes of this section would exceed one hundred, a special equalization rate of one hundred shall be established and certified by the commissioner for the purpose of this section.
(iii) Where a special equalization rate has been established and certified by the commissioner for the purposes of this paragraph, the assessor is directed and authorized to recompute the agricultural assessment on the assessment roll by applying such special equalization rate instead of the latest state equalization rate, and to make the appropriate corrections on the assessment roll, subject to the provisions of title two of article twelve of the real property tax law.
d. (i) If land within an agricultural district which received an agricultural assessment is converted parcels, as described on the assessment roll which include land so converted shall be subject to payments equalling five times the taxes saved in the last year in which the land benefited from an agricultural assessment, plus interest of six percent per year compounded annually for each year in which an agricultural assessment was granted, not exceeding five years. The amount of taxes saved for the last year in which the land benefited from an agricultural assessment shall be determined by applying the applicable tax rates to the excess amount of assessed valuation of such land over its agricultural assessment as set forth on the last assessment roll which indicates such an excess. If only a portion of a parcel as described on the assessment roll is converted, the assessor shall apportion the assessment and agricultural assessment attributable to the converted portion, as determined for the last assessment roll for which the assessment of such portion exceeded its agricultural assessment. The difference between the apportioned assessment and the apportioned agricultural assessment shall be the amount upon which payments shall be determined. Payments shall be added by or on behalf of each taxing jurisdiction to the taxes levied on the assessment roll prepared on the basis of the first taxable status date on which the assessor considers the land to have been converted; provided, however, that no payments shall be imposed if the last assessment roll upon which the property benefited from an agricultural assessment, was more than five years prior to the year for which the assessment roll upon which payments would otherwise be levied is prepared.
(ii) Whenever a conversion occurs, the owner shall notify the assessor within ninety days of the date such conversion is commenced. If the landowner fails to make such notification within the ninety day period, the assessing unit, by majority vote of the governing body, may impose a penalty on behalf of the assessing unit of up to two times the total payments owed, but not to exceed a maximum total penalty of one thousand dollars in addition to any payments owed.
(iii) (a) An assessor who determines that there is liability for payments and any penalties assessed pursuant to subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph shall notify the landowner by mail of such liability at least ten days prior to the date for hearing complaints in relation to assessments. Such notice shall indicate the property to which payments apply and describe how the payments shall be determined. Failure to provide such notice shall not affect the levy, collection or enforcement or payment of payments. (b) Liability for payments shall be subject to administrative and judicial review as provided by law for review of assessments.
(iv) If such land or any portion thereof is converted to a use other than for agricultural production by virtue of oil, gas or wind exploration, development, or extraction activity or by virtue of a taking by eminent domain or other involuntary proceeding other than a tax sale, the land or portion so converted shall not be subject to payments. If the land so converted constitutes only a portion of a parcel described on the assessment roll, the assessor shall apportion the assessment, and adjust the agricultural assessment attributable to the portion of the parcel not subject to such conversion by subtracting the proportionate part of the agricultural assessment attributable to the portion so converted. Provided further that land within an agricultural district and eligible for an agricultural assessment shall not be considered to have been converted to a use other than for agricultural production solely due to the conveyance of oil, gas or wind rights associated with that land.
(v) An assessor who imposes any such payments shall annually, and within forty-five days following the date on which the final assessment roll is required to be filed, report such payments to the commissioner of taxation and finance on a form prescribed by the commissioner.
(vi) The assessing unit, by majority vote of the governing body, may impose a minimum payment amount, not to exceed five hundred dollars.
(vii) The purchase of land in fee by the city of New York for watershed protection purposes or the conveyance of a conservation easement by the city of New York to the department of environmental conservation which prohibits future use of the land for agricultural purposes shall not be a conversion of parcels and no payment shall be due under this section.
e. Notwithstanding any inconsistent general, special or local law to the contrary, if a natural disaster, act of God, or continued adverse weather conditions shall destroy the agricultural production and such fact is certified by the cooperative extension service and, as a result, such production does not produce an average gross sales value of ten thousand dollars or more, the owner may nevertheless qualify for an agricultural assessment provided the owner shall substantiate in such manner as prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance that the agricultural production initiated on such land would have produced an average gross sales value of ten thousand dollars or more but for the natural disaster, act of God or continued adverse weather conditions.
3. Policy of state agencies. It shall be the policy of all state agencies to encourage the maintenance of viable farming in agricultural districts and their administrative regulations and procedures shall be modified to this end insofar as is consistent with the promotion of public health and safety and with the provisions of any federal statutes, standards, criteria, rules, regulations, or policies, and any other requirements of federal agencies, including provisions applicable only to obtaining federal grants, loans, or other funding.
4. Limitation on the exercise of eminent domain and other public acquisitions, and on the advance of public funds.
a. Any agency of the state, any public benefit corporation or any local government which intends to acquire land or any interest therein, provided that the acquisition from any one actively operated farm within the district would be in excess of one acre or that the total acquisition within the district would be in excess of ten acres, or which intends to construct, or advance a grant, loan, interest subsidy or other funds within a district to construct, dwellings, commercial or industrial facilities, or water or sewer facilities to serve non-farm structures, shall use all practicable means in undertaking such action to realize the policy and goals set forth in this article, and shall act and choose alternatives which, consistent with social, economic and other essential considerations, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize or avoid adverse impacts on agriculture in order to sustain a viable farm enterprise or enterprises within the district. The adverse agricultural impacts to be minimized or avoided shall include impacts revealed in the notice of intent process described in this subdivision.
b. The agency, corporation or government proposing the action shall also, at least sixty-five days prior to such acquisition, construction or advance of public funds, file a notice of intent with the commissioner and the county agricultural and farmland protection board. Such notice shall include a detailed agricultural impact statement setting forth the following:
(i) a detailed description of the proposed action and its agricultural setting;
(ii) the agricultural impact of the proposed action including short-term and long-term effects;
(iii) any adverse agricultural effects which cannot be avoided should the proposed action be implemented;
(iv) alternatives to the proposed action;
(v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of agricultural resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented;
(vi) mitigation measures proposed to minimize the adverse impact of the proposed action on the continuing viability of a farm enterprise or enterprises within the district;
(vii) any aspects of the proposed action which would encourage non-farm development, where applicable and appropriate; and
(viii) such other information as the commissioner may require. The commissioner shall promptly determine whether the notice is complete or incomplete. If the commissioner does not issue such determination within thirty days, the notice shall be deemed complete. If the notice is determined to be incomplete, the commissioner shall notify the party proposing the action in writing of the reasons for that determination. Any new submission shall commence a new period for department review for purposes of determining completeness.
c. The provisions of paragraph b of this subdivision shall not apply and shall be deemed waived by the owner of the land to be acquired where such owner signs a document to such effect and provides a copy to the commissioner.
d. Upon notice from the commissioner that he or she has accepted a notice as complete, the county agricultural and farmland protection board may, within thirty days, review the proposed action and its effects on farm operations and agricultural resources within the district, and report its findings and recommendations to the commissioner and to the party proposing the action in the case of actions proposed by a state agency or public benefit corporation, and additionally to the county legislature in the case of actions proposed by local government agencies.
e. Upon receipt and acceptance of a notice, the commissioner shall thereupon forward a copy of such notice to the commissioner of environmental conservation and the advisory council on agriculture. The commissioner, in consultation with the commissioner of environmental conservation and the advisory council on agriculture, within forty-five days of the acceptance of a notice, shall review the proposed action and make an initial determination whether such action would have an unreasonably adverse effect on the continuing viability of a farm enterprise or enterprises within the district, or state environmental plans, policies and objectives. If the commissioner so determines, he or she may (i) issue an order within the forty-five day period directing the state agency, public benefit corporation or local government not to take such action for an additional period of sixty days immediately following such forty-five day period; and
(ii) review the proposed action to determine whether any reasonable and practicable alternative or alternatives exist which would minimize or avoid the adverse impact on agriculture in order to sustain a viable farm enterprise or enterprises within the district. The commissioner may hold a public hearing concerning such proposed action at a place within the district or otherwise easily accessible to the district upon notice in a newspaper having a general circulation within the district and posted on the home page of the department’s website, and individual notice, in writing by first class mail, to the municipalities whose territories encompass the district, the commissioner of environmental conservation, the advisory council on agriculture and the state agency, public benefit corporation or local government proposing to take such action. On or before the conclusion of such additional sixty day period, the commissioner shall report his or her findings to the agency, corporation or government proposing to take such action, to any public agency having the power of review of or approval of such action, and, in a manner conducive to the wide dissemination of such findings, to the public. If the commissioner concludes that a reasonable and practicable alternative or alternatives exist which would minimize or avoid the adverse impact of the proposed action, he or she shall propose that such alternative or alternatives be accepted. If the agency, corporation or government proposing the action accepts the commissioner’s proposal, then the requirements of the notice of intent filing shall be deemed fulfilled. If the agency, corporation or government rejects the commissioner’s proposal, then it shall provide the commissioner with reasons for rejecting such proposal and a detailed comparison between its proposed action and the commissioner’s alternative or alternatives.
f. At least ten days before commencing an action which has been the subject of a notice of intent filing, the agency, corporation or government shall certify to the commissioner that it has made an explicit finding that the requirements of this subdivision have been met, and that consistent with social, economic and other essential considerations, to the maximum extent practicable, adverse agricultural impacts revealed in the notice of intent process will be minimized or avoided. Such certification shall set forth the reasons in support of the finding.
g. The commissioner may request the attorney general to bring an action to enjoin any such agency, corporation or government from violating any of the provisions of this subdivision.
h. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no solid waste management facility shall be sited on land in agricultural production which is located within an agricultural district, or land in agricultural production that qualifies for and is receiving an agricultural assessment pursuant to section three hundred six of this article. Nothing contained herein, however, shall be deemed to prohibit siting when:
(i) The owner of such land has entered into a written agreement which shall indicate his consent for site consideration; or
(ii) The applicant for a permit has made a commitment in the permit application to fund a farm land protection conservation easement within a reasonable proximity to the proposed project in an amount not less than the dollar value of any such farm land purchased for the project; or
(iii) The commissioner in concurrence with the commissioner of environmental conservation has determined that any such agricultural land to be taken, constitutes less than five percent of the project site. For purposes of this paragraph, “solid waste management facility” shall have the same meaning as provided in title seven of article twenty-seven of the environmental conservation law, but shall not include solid waste transfer stations or land upon which sewage sludge is applied, and determinations regarding agricultural district boundaries and agricultural assessments will be based on those in effect as of the date an initial determination is made, pursuant to article eight of the environmental conservation law, as to whether an environmental impact statement needs to be prepared for the proposed project.
i. This subdivision shall not apply to any emergency project which is immediately necessary for the protection of life or property or to any project or proceeding to which the department is or has been a statutory party.
j. The commissioner may bring an action to enforce any mitigation measures proposed by a public benefit corporation or a local government, and accepted by the commissioner, pursuant to a notice of intent filing, to minimize or avoid adverse agricultural impacts from the proposed action.
5. Limitation on power to impose benefit assessments, special ad valorem levies or other rates or fees in certain improvement districts or benefit areas. Within improvement districts or areas deemed benefited by municipal improvements including, but not limited to, improvements for sewer, water, lighting, non-farm drainage, solid waste disposal, including those solid waste management facilities established pursuant to section two hundred twenty-six-b of the county law, or other landfill operations, no benefit assessments, special ad valorem levies or other rates or fees charged for such improvements may be imposed on land used primarily for agricultural production within an agricultural district on any basis, except a lot not exceeding one-half acre surrounding any dwelling or non-farm structure located on said land, nor on any farm structure located in an agricultural district unless such structure benefits directly from the service of such improvement district or benefited area; provided, however, that if such benefit assessments, ad valorem levies or other rates or fees were imposed prior to the formation of the agricultural district, then such benefit assessments, ad valorem levies or other rates or fees shall continue to be imposed on such land or farm structure.
6. Use of assessment for certain purposes. The governing body of a fire, fire protection, or ambulance district for which a benefit assessment or a special ad valorem levy is made, may adopt a resolution to provide that the assessment determined pursuant to subdivision one of this section for such property shall be used for the benefit assessment or special ad valorem levy of such fire, fire protection, or ambulance district.
7. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, that portion of the value of land which is used solely for the purpose of replanting or crop expansion as part of an orchard or vineyard shall be exempt from real property taxation for a period of six successive years following the date of such replanting or crop expansion beginning on the first eligible taxable status date following such replanting or expansion provided the following conditions are met:
a. the land used for crop expansion or replanting must be a part of an existing orchard or vineyard which is located on land used in agricultural production within an agricultural district or such land must be part of an existing orchard or vineyard which is eligible for an agricultural assessment pursuant to this section or section three hundred six of this chapter where the owner of such land has filed an annual application for an agricultural assessment;
b. the land eligible for such real property tax exemption shall not in any one year exceed twenty percent of the total acreage of such orchard or vineyard which is located on land used in agricultural production within an agricultural district or twenty percent of the total acreage of such orchard or vineyard eligible for an agricultural assessment pursuant to this section and section three hundred six of this chapter where the owner of such land has filed an annual application for an agricultural assessment;
c. the land eligible for such real property tax exemption must be maintained as land used in agricultural production as part of such orchard or vineyard for each year such exemption is granted; and
d. when the land used for the purpose of replanting or crop expansion as part of an orchard or vineyard is located within an area which has been declared by the governor to be a disaster emergency in a year in which such tax exemption is sought and in a year in which such land meets all other eligibility requirements for such tax exemption set forth in this subdivision, the maximum twenty percent total acreage restriction set forth in paragraph b of this subdivision may be exceeded for such year and for any remaining successive years, provided, however, that the land eligible for such real property tax exemption shall not exceed the total acreage damaged or destroyed by such disaster in such year or the total acreage which remains damaged or destroyed in any remaining successive year. The total acreage for which such exemption is sought pursuant to this paragraph shall be subject to verification by the commissioner or his designee. In administering this subdivision, the portion of the value of land eligible for such real property tax exemption shall be determined based on the average per acre assessment of all agricultural land of the specific tax parcel as reported in a form approved by the commissioner of taxation and finance.