Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Equine property tax reform: a way forward

On January 12, 2010, a final meeting of the equine property tax work group was held at the Department of Revenue for stakeholders and group members to discuss MDOR's second draft of their Report to legislative leaders on the taxation of equine property under current law.

Overall, the meeting went very well. The Department made clear that they carefully considered the strongly articulated views of the Minnesota Horse Council (MHC), Farm Bureau and individual stakeholders in the equine industry as well as the survey input from assessors across Minnesota. We won a major victory by persuading MDOR to issue statewide guidelines stating that pasture is to be considered an agricultural product if at least 10 acres of it are used to graze horses on a horse boarding property. MDOR drew the line at recommending that riding lessons and horse training be allowed as agricultural activities that are critical to horse boarding, but only because that is viewed by the Department as making improper policy recommendations. That, they say, is for the legislature. But property tax division leadership is willing to work with us on language to introduce next session to change the property tax statute to specifically allow such activities, which everyone agrees could clarify and simplify classification by assessors.

At tonight's meeting of the MN Stable Owners Association and other interested persons together with area legislators, we'll offer some more detail and begin the discussion over what language, exactly, would best accomplish what we need in the statute and be most likely to result in "consensus legislation" that will pass without opposition. We are hopeful, after yesterday's meeting, that MDOR will be our partner in achieving that goal--not by advocating for it but by helping us introduce the right language to accomplish it without running into disagreement over interpretation of any changes.

Thanks to everyone who provided input on the draft guidelines and report! We have made great progress, but in some ways our work is just beginning.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Minnesota Stable Owners Association is born

I have exciting news - the Minnesota Stable Owners Association - - has been formed as a Minnesota nonprofit and 501(c)(6) business league. This organization will strengthen Minnesota equine businesses by enabling local chapters, organizing and gathering information about concerns of local horsemen and stable owners, for a strength-in-numbers approach to improving public policy and business conditions for horsemen in Minnesota.

The group was born out of the property tax mis-classification mess in Washington County, but it was quickly realized that problems are widespread and some kind of grassroots organization is needed statewide. The Minnesota Horse Council's President, Mark Ward, is an active founder of the Stable Owners Association and has offered the strategic partnership of the Council in legislative and policy efforts. The Council's mission to represent and support the statewide horse industry, in turn, will benefit from the increased exposure by tapping the enthusiastic initiative of local horse communities throughout Minnesota.

I am just putting the finishing touches on the Bylaws, which were approved at last night's meeting. Another meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, January 13 at 6p at Withrow Ballroom in Grant, when local legislators will also be in attendance to hear about property tax and Green Acres concerns of equine property owners.

Please help spread the word and encourage people to join both the MSOA and MN Horse Council to support this strategic partnership to help the horse industry through policy change! And, if you or your equine community members are interested, consider forming a Local Chapter of MSOA. When the time comes to support or oppose legislation next session starting in February, it will be critically important to have strong equine communities voice their opinions in real time to their locally elected representatives. The MSOA will rapidly gain power and credibility if we show how quickly and strongly we tell our legislators about the importance of horses in agriculture.