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Long Overdue: Tax Breaks for Farmers Who Shift to Organic Agriculture

From Ag News You Can Use July 16, 2005
Amigo Cantisano <orgamigo@jps.net

Woodbury County Iowa offers tax breaks to organic farmers, first in U.S. Associated Press

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Woodbury County is offering tax incentives to farmers who switch from conventional production to organic.

Woodbury County Supervisors voted June 28 to provide property tax rebates for those who convert from conventional to organic farming practices. That action will grant $50,000 a year for five years to those who make the
conversion.

Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, Calif., said Woodbury County may be the first local government to offer such incentives to farmers" "Frankly, I don't know of any other activity that local government has taken to encourage organic farming,'' he said.

Marqusee said the goal of the program would be to build on local agriculture to spark economic development.

The program would help build a thriving organic farming industry that would attract organic food processors and other businesses to the area, he said. ``I studied the economic benefits of organic farming. It just seemed to fit,'' he said. ``We're looking at being part of a movement that is gaining ground.'' Marqusee said studies done by Iowa State University show organic farming can produce higher profit margins per acre than conventional farming, and on fewer acres.

Organic farming might save smaller family farms by offering lower startup costs and encouraging potential young farmers to stay in farming instead of leaving for higher paying jobs.

Marqusee said the organic market is growing with more grocery stores, such as Hy-Vee, dedicating space to organic products. ``We think domestic (organic) food manufacturers are going to want a reliable domestic supply,'' Marqusee said. ``We know that people are making money. It might as well be us, too.'' Holly Givens, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts-based Organic Trade Association, said her group doesn't track local governments programs, but she believes incentives for farmers who switch to organic production are unusual. ``I haven't really heard of that before,'' she said.