The Sprout || Tax incentives are great but do they miss the mark on racial equity?

According to the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), access to land is the number one cited challenge for beginning farmers. In response to that, we are starting to see programs that incentivize getting farmland into the hands of beginning farmers. As Civil Eats reports, more and more states are using tax breaks as a solution. The idea is that farmland owners who sell their land to beginning farmers get a reduced tax bill. Minnesota was the vanguard, developing a program in 2017, then came Pennsylvania in 2019 and now Ohio is working on one of its own. (Iowa and Nebraska also created tax incentive programs but theirs focused only on renting rather than selling land to beginning farmers.)

This is all really good news, and it appears that it’s working. By 2019, Minnesota had 527 beginning farmers and 584 owners enrolled in the program. However…these programs are not without their issues.

Karen Gardner, Pennsylvania manager for NYFC was thrilled with Pennsylvania’s tax credit program, calling it a very important step in the right direction, but that it should be improved to prioritize access for BIPOC farmers. As reported in Civil Eats, Gardner stated, “Any legislation that isn’t specifically prioritizing applicants of color or setting aside funds for farmers of color is going to be holding up the status quo.”

As Karen Gardner also said, it would be helpful for the Pennsylvania program to include tax incentives for renting as well, particularly to incentive long term leases of 5 or 10 years. This makes a lot of sense as beginning farmers, particularly those from underserved communitites, tend to lack resources to afford a down payment to buy land.