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    Michigan's Farmland Preservation Program began with the passage of Public Act 116 in 1974 and is often referred to as PA 116. However, the act is now incorporated into Act 451 of 1994 and contained in part 361 of this act. (1)

     

    The program allows land owners to enter into a Development Rights Agreement with the state of Michigan. The agreement can range in time from a minimum of ten years, to a maximum of ninety years. An agreement short of the maximum allowed time may be extended by a minimum of seven years, up to the ninety year limit. The arrangements stipulate that the land under the program cannot be used for anything other than agriculture for the duration of the agreement. (1)

     

    .

    Requirements

    In order to enroll in the program land owners must meet one of three requirements: (1) the land parcel must be forty acres or larger, and at least fifty-one percent of the land must be actively used for agriculture; the land parcel is between five and forty acres, at least fifty-one percent is actively used for agriculture, and the agricultural land produces a gross annual income greater than $200 per tillable acre; the land parcel is designated a specialty farm by the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), is at least fifteen acres, and has a gross annual income greater than $2000. (1)

     

     

    Benefits to Landowners

    Landowners participating in the program receive two benefits. Depending on the property tax paid and the landowners income, the landowner can claim a Michigan income tax credit. Under this system the landowner receives a tax credit on property taxes in excess of 3.5% of the landowners income. The MDA gives the following example, "if the owner has an income of $20,000 and property taxes on the farm total $2,000, he/she would subtract $700 (3.5 percent of $20,000) from the $2,000 property tax for an income tax credit of $1,300." (1)

     

     

    Landowners are also "exempt from special assessments for sanitary sewers, water, lights, or non-farm drainage, unless the assessments were imposed prior" to the implementation of the agreement. This means that the landowner will not have to pay any special taxes that the local government may wish to assess on the aforementioned activities. (1)

     

     

    Types of Agreements

    There are five different methods by which the program seeks to preserve land, all of which are voluntary and agreements between the landowner and the government. (1) A Farmland Development Rights Agreement is a temporary restriction which preserves the land for agricultural use in exchange for tax benefits and exemptions from special assessments. (2) A Conservation Easement Donation is a permanent restriction which preserves the land for either open space, or agriculture. (3) An Agricultural Preservation Fund is a fund established in order to assist local governments in setting up the local purchase of a development rights program. (4) A Local Open Space Easement is a temporary restriction which preserves the land as open space in exchange for tax benefits and exemptions from special assesments. This is the only method which is an agreement between the landowner and the local government rather than the state government (5) A Designated Open Space Easement is the same as the previous program, except it is between the landowner and the state government. (2)

     

    The text of the relevant legislation can be read at the Michigan Legislature's site here.

     

    1. Farmland and Open Space Preservation Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-1567_1599_2558-10312--,00.html. November 7, 2008.
    2. The Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program. http://www.michigan.gov/mda/0,1607,7-125-1567_1599_2558-10301--,00.html. November 7, 2008.

     

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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