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Green Acres changes approved

Rep. Mike LeMieur’s bill amending the Green Acres program has been approved by the Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. The Green Acres program was designed to hold down property taxes in rural Minnesota.

LeMieur, R-Little Falls, was the chief sponsor in the House. Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, was a co-author in the Senate.

The Senate approved the changes Thursday on a bipartisan vote of 45-15. The House passed the bill with similar support earlier this week. 

LeMieur could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gazelka said he was “pretty certain” Dayton would sign the bill because of its bipartisan support. He said township officials, the Farm Bureau, the Farmer’s Union and county assessors all supported the revised law.

“It simplifies and returns the program to its original intent,” he said. That includes easing property tax burdens on farmers and preserving farm land from encroaching development.

“It is very, very important for the agriculture community,” Gazelka said.

Critics of changes made to the program in 2008 say it was forcing farmers to choose either higher taxes or to put some of their land in conservation programs. 

The bill passed Thursday allows land removed from the program after 2008 to be reinstated at the request of owners, requires the state commissioner of revenue to consider alternate methods for valuing property in the program, and extends the 2011 enrollment deadline from May 1 to August 1.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860. This story contains information compiled by The Associated Press.