Rarely is it that one chooses to go into an agricultural business with the expectation of getting rich. Often it is a much more emotional connection to the practices of raising animals, growing food, and working with the land that draws people to the dream of owning a farm. For many, that emotional connection also comes from the lineage of family members who have lived and worked on the same land for multiple generations.
For Massachusetts farmers, that dream of continuing the family farm gets harder every decade.
Within our state, the ability to own and operate a farm is constantly challenged by unrealistic regulations that cost farmers time and money with little beneficial outcome. Perhaps that is why the average age of a farmer within our state is 55-65 years old. With greater opportunities for financial success off of the family farm, as well as the challenges (naturally, economically, politically) of trying to survive in this business, there is less interest and ability to take over the farm operation from older generations.
For many reasons, it is critical that we preserve farmland and make the path to operating a profitable farm business realistic and accessible. This can be done in a number of ways; one of which is being worked through state legislation right now.
The local agriculture community is supporting a piece of legislation that would reduce the estate tax imposed on a piece of land when the owner dies. This is important because currently when a farmer passes away, their land is accessed at its highest value, which is typically housing developments. Many families in this situation who want to continue farming on their land are forced to pay exorbitant taxes on land that won’t generate them much money. For this reason, those family members are often forced to sell off parts, or all, of the land for development in order to pay that tax.
This new bill (H 3323/S 1584) states that farmland that is transferred under the death of the owner would be accessed at its agricultural value as long as it stays farmland. This is a much more feasible cost to those wishing to carry on their family’s tradition of utilizing land for its natural purpose.
This bill not only has the ability to make farming a more feasible opportunity to younger generations, it will also maintain open land within the state. Both of these things are good for our state’s economy, ecology, and communities.
There is a family in Western MA going through a very similar situation and trying to save their farm. Follow this link to learn more about them, and help them preserve a 4th generation family farm.