A group of farmers from Chester and Delaware counties visit with state Representative John Lawrence (13th District) to discuss key issues impacting state agriculture as part of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's State Legislative Conference in Harrisburg

A group of farmers from Chester and Delaware counties visit with state Representative John Lawrence (13th District) to discuss key issues impacting state agriculture as part of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s State Legislative Conference in Harrisburg

More than 350 farmers from across the Keystone State converged on Harrisburg to participate in Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s State Legislative Conference and meet with members of the General Assembly to discuss priority issues affecting farm families, including the potential impact on real estate property taxes in connection with the proposed state budget and efforts to address unfunded pension liabilities.

“Pennsylvania farmers are urging lawmakers to consider how their decisions on the state budget and pension reform will affect the viability of farm families across the Commonwealth,” said PFB President Rick Ebert. “We believe the Governor’s plan opens up the conversation for reform and are hopeful that the final spending plan will include meaningful property tax relief for farmers. The Governor’s initial proposal falls short of that goal, because tax reductions under the plan are limited to buildings and do not affect farmland.”

Farm Bureau notes that the budget does not prevent local school districts from wiping out proposed reductions in property taxes by increasing property tax millage rates. In addition, a proposed tax deduction for businesses would not be helpful to most Pennsylvania farms.

“The vast majority of farm families would not reap the benefit of a 50% cut in the corporate net income tax, because Pennsylvania farms are comprised of sole-proprietorships, partnerships or “S” Corporations, which pay taxes as individual owners, not corporations,” added Ebert.

PFB has a long-standing policy that calls for state education funding to be supported through a variety of tax options combined with a significant reduction (or elimination) of state property taxes. Meanwhile, Farm Bureau policy also seeks immediate action to address Pennsylvania’s skyrocketing pension crisis.

“The Governor’s budget proposal provides the framework for further discussions about how best to fund Pennsylvania’s public school system and opens the door for considering alternatives to address short- and long-term problems associated with the massive unfunded pension liability. We encourage lawmakers to devise solutions that provide real property tax reductions and pension funding that is fair and equitable for all Pennsylvanians,” continued Ebert.

Farm Bureau members also talked to lawmakers about the need to amend a law (Act 85) that provides an inheritance tax exemption for farm families. “Farmers greatly appreciate the state inheritance tax exemption enacted in 2012, but recent interpretations of the act are limiting the scope of the exemption. We are seeking amendments to ensure that the exemption will also apply to farm transfers involving businesses and legal arrangements the farm family is using to maintain their future operation of the farm,” Ebert concluded.

PFB members also spoke to lawmakers about the need for legislative action to ensure that gas well leaseholders receive the state mandated rate of 12.5% for gas extracted from their property and the importance of proposed changes to the Fair Dealer Law that would allow local farm equipment dealers to remain competitive and better serve the needs of farmers to obtain equipment and services in a timely manner.