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Tonight, the Capitol will be Green (Acres)

Charley Shaw//March 17, 2009//

Tonight, the Capitol will be Green (Acres)

Charley Shaw//March 17, 2009//

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On this St. Patrick’s Day evening, when all the world will be Irish and green the ubiquitous color, it’s perhaps fitting that two state House tax panels are planning to hold a marathon joint session on the controversial Green Acres program.

Green Acres has nothing to do with shamrocks. And Room 10 of the State Office Buildingis expected tobethe scene offarmers who are angry about recent changes to the 42-year-old agricultural land preservationprogram; notrevelers raising glasses of Guiness Irish Stout.

The House Taxes Committee and the House Property Tax Division at 6 p.m. are planning to hear 17 bills that address an outcry from farmers upset about changes lawmakers made to Green Acres last year.

Land enrolled in Green Acresis assessed based on its agricultural value. For farms that aresurrounded by commerical development like malls, Green Acres eases the tax burden considerably. Lawmakers made changes to the program in 2008 after the Legislative Auditor reported that38 percentof the land enrolled in Green Acres isn’t used for farming.

In the most recent Minnesota Farmers Union legislative update, lobbyist Thom Petersen aptly referred totonight’shearing as "Green Acres-palooza." Petersen’s group, which supports a repeal of last year’s changes, will be among those spending their evening debating agricultural tax policy rather than swilling green tinted beer.

The state Senate passed a tax bill last week that included fixes to the Green Acres program.

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