Matt with his wife Morgan his son William, 4, and his daughter Sophia, 6, on their Greenville farm. Matt Aultman farm outside of Greenville, Ohio.(Photos by Jodi Miller)

Across the Table: The Prosperous Farmer

Across the Table with Adam Sharp, OFBF executive vice president

If he wants, Matt Aultman can now afford to pasture a few more Nigerian dwarf goats or maybe invest a little in his small orchard, beehives, sheep, tank-raised fish or his kids’ 4-H steers. Matt just got some much needed relief from exploding farm property tax bills. That’s good for him and good for the customers at his roadside market and at the local grocery he supplies.

Matt’s an example of how skyrocketing property tax bills have impacted local food suppliers. On their 50-acre Darke County farm, Matt and wife, Morgan, were forced to drop some lower value crops and replace them with higher value crops to help cover the taxes. “That gave our customers less choices,” he said. “I had some friends that even rented their acreage to the neighbor farmer instead of raising products for the farmers market due to the increase in their CAUV taxes.”

CAUV stands for Current Agricultural Use Value. Ohioans put it in the state constitution in 1973. The system taxes land on its value for farming, which is lower than its value if turned into strip malls and housing tracts. It achieved the goal of keeping land in farming. But in recent years, nonfarm factors in the complex CAUV formula led to farm property taxes shooting up by an average of 307 percent, which cost small farmers like Matt thousands of dollars and cost bigger family farms tens of thousands. At the same time, farm income experienced the second biggest drop in history. So, Farm Bureau members got busy.

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In 1973, Farm Bureau members successfully made their case to the public that fair taxes would preserve farmland.  In 2017, members achieved reforms to make farm property taxes more accurate and more fair.

 

Thousands of phone calls, emails and personal visits by members and much work by Farm Bureau staff resulted in regulatory and legislative changes that reduced average farm valuations by 30 percent. I tip my cap to the members who made this happen, and I thank the lawmakers who supported our efforts.

While CAUV reform is clearly good for farmers and their customers, questions remain about the implications for our broader communities. Matt, for example, needs to sort things out as not just as a farmer but also as a county commissioner and the spouse of a school teacher. He thinks the impacts will be manageable. So do I.

A more fair property tax system is good for Ohio. Matt shared a story that I think makes my case. Early in his farming career, Matt listened to an elderly farmer who offered these thoughts: “The greatest economic development tool to a community is a prosperous farmer. They’ll spend their money with local businesses and local service groups. They have the pride to make where they live better so that it’s a place their children will want to work and live as well.”

Matt says when he looks around his community today, that’s exactly what he sees. Me, too.

Feature Image: Morgan and Matt Aultman and family on their Darke County farm.