CHAPTER 373

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 83, TITLE 9, DELAWARE CODE, RELATING TO THE ASSESSMENT AND TAXATION OF LAND ACTIVELY DEVOTED TO AGRICULTURAL, HORTICULTURAL AND FOREST USES AND THE CREATION OF A STATE FARMLAND EVALUATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Title 9, Chapter 83, is amended by adding thereto a new Section to read:

§ 8330. Assessment and taxation of land actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural and forest uses and the creation of a State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee

(a) It is hereby declared (1) that it is in the public interest to encourage the preservation of farm land in order to maintain a readily available source of food and farm products close to the metropolitan areas of the state, to conserve the state's natural resources and to provide for the welfare and happiness of the inhabitants of the state; (2) that it is in the public interest to prevent the forced conversion of farm land and forest land to more intensive uses as a result of economic pressures ,caused by the assessment thereof for purposes of property taxation at value incompatible with their preservation as such farm land and forest land; and (3) that the necessity in the public interest of the enactment of the provisions of this act is a matter of legislative determination.

(b) For general property tax purposes, the value of land, not less than five (5) acres in area, which is actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or forest use and which has been so devoted for at least the two (2) successive years immediately preceding the tax year in issue, shall, on application of the owner, and approval thereof as hereinafter provided, be that value which such lands have for agricultural, horticultural or forest use.

(c) Land shall be deemed to be in agricultural use when devoted to the production for sale of plants and animals useful to man, including but not limited to: forages and sod crops; grains and feed crops; dairy animals and dairy products; poultry and poultry products; livestock, including beef cattle, sheep, swine, horses, ponies, mules or goats, including the breeding and grazing of any or all of such animals; bees and apiary products, fur animals; trees and forest products; or when devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government.

() Land shall be deemed to be in horticultural use when devoted to the production for sale of fruits of all kinds, including grapes, nuts and berries; vegetables; nursery, floral, ornamental and greenhouse products; or when devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government.

(a) Land shall be deemed to be in forest use when devoted to tree growth in such quantity and so spaced and maintained as to constitute in the opinion of the state forester a forest area.

(b) Land shall be deemed to be actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use when the gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products produced thereon together with any payments received under a soil conservation program have averaged at least $500 per year during the two (2) year period immediately preceding the tax year in issue, or there is clear evidence of anticipated yearly gross sales and such payments amounting to at least $500 within a reasonable period of time.

(c) Land which is actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or forest use shall be eligible for valuation, assessment and taxation as herein provided when it meets the following qualifications:

(1) It has been so devoted for at least two (2) successive years immediately preceding the tax year for which valuation under this act is requested;

(2) The area of such land is not less than five (5) acres; and

(3) Application by the owner of such land for valuation hereunder is submitted on or before February 1 of the year immediately preceding the tax year to the assessor of the taxing district in which such land is situated on the form prescribed by the State Farm Land Evaluation Advisory Committee.

(h) The assessor in valuing land which qualifies as land actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or forest use under the tests prescribed by this act, and as to which the owner thereof has made timely application for valuation, assessment and taxation hereunder for the tax year in issue, shall consider only those indicia of value which such land has for agricultural, horticultural or forest use. In addition to use of his personal knowledge, judgment and experience as to the value of land in agricultural, horticultural or forest use, he shall, in arriving at the value of such land, consider available evidence of agricultural, horticultural or forest capability, and the recommendations of value of such land as made by the State Farm Land Evaluation Advisory Committee.

(i) In determining the total area of land actively devoted to agricultural, horticultural or forest use there shall be included the area of all land under barns, sheds, silos, cribs, green houses and like structures, lakes, dams, ponds, streams, irrigation ditches and like facilities, but land under and such additional land as may be actually used in connection with the farmhouse shall be excluded in determining such total area.

(j) All structures, which are located on land in agricultural, horticultural or forest use and the farmhouse and the land on which the farmhouse is located, together with the additional land used in connection therewith, shall be valued, assessed and taxed by the same standards, methods and procedures as other taxable structures and other land in the taxing district.

(k) Eligibility of land for valuation, assessment and taxation under this act shall be determined for each tax year separately. Application shall be submitted by the owner to the assessor of the taxing district in which such land is situated on or before February 1 of the year immediately preceding the tax year for which such valuation, assessment and taxation are sought.

(1) There is hereby created a State Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee, the members of which shall be the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, University of Delaware; one member shall be appointed by the Governor from a list of three eligible citizens, which list shall be supplied the Governor by the Executive Committee of the Delaware State Grange; and one member shall be appointed by the Governor from a list of three eligible citizens, which list shall be supplied the Governor by the Executive Committee of the Delaware Farm Bureau. No more than two members of the Committee shall be of the same political party. Each member shall be a citizen of Delaware and shall be appointed for a term of three years beginning on the first day of July in the year of appointment. Vacancies for any cause other than the expiration of term shall be filled by the Governor for the unexpired term.

(m) The Committee shall meet from time to time on the call of the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and annually determine and publish a range of values for each of the several classifications of land in agricultural, horticultural or forest use in the various areas of the State. The primary objective of the Committee shall be the determination of the ranges in fair value of such land based upon its productive capabilities when devoted to agricultural, horticultural or forest uses. In making these annual determinations of value, the Committee shall consider available evidence of agricultural, horticultural or forest capability derived from the soil survey and such other evidence of value of land devoted exclusively to agricultural, horticultural or forest uses as it may in its judgment deem pertinent. On or before February 1 of each year, the Committee authority in each of the taxing districts in which land in agricultural, horticultural and forest use is located.

() If any clause, sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section or part of this act be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the reminder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section or part thereof directly involved in the controversy in which said judgment shall have been rendered.

(a) The tax year 1969 shall be deemed to be the first tax year to which the provisions of this act shall apply, and this act shall apply to the tax year 1969 and subsequent tax years.

Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

Approved June 28, 1968.

NOTE: This Act has been codified as Sections 8330 through 8338, Title 9, Delaware Code.