Posted on January 03, 2023 in: Guest Column
It's a new year, welcome 2023!! January 1, that is a big deal here at the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s office. January 1st is the statutory assessment date for all property. We like to say “it is how it is as of January 1st”. In this month's guest column, I wanted to touch on the topic of Agricultural Classification. Did you know that the Citrus County Property Appraiser's office and the other 66 counties in the State of Florida offer an Agriculture Classification? There seems to be a lot of confusion about how you get “ag”, when is the deadline, zoning, can I have a few farm animals and get ag? In this month's article, hopefully we can clear some of the questions up. One thing to remember is that the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s office is bound by Florida Statutes. We make no exceptions for anyone!
Since I brought up statutes let’s talk about the main one that dictates a lot of what we do and decide. The Agricultural Classification is pursuant to Florida Statutes 193.461 (3) (b) which reads, “Subject to the restrictions specified in this section, only lands that are used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be classified agricultural. The term “bona fide agricultural purposes” means good faith commercial agricultural use of the land.”
We review every application on a case-by-case basis. Every property stands on its own and that goes for even if the property had previously been classified as Agricultural, that doesn’t mean it is currently. In determining whether the use of the land for agricultural purposes is bona fide, the following factors may be taken into consideration: The length of time the land has been so used. Whether the use has been continuous. The purchase price that was paid. Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use, but a minimum acreage may not be required for agricultural assessment. Whether an indicated effort has been made to care sufficiently and adequately for the land in accordance with accepted commercial agricultural practices, including, without limitation, fertilizing, liming, tilling, mowing, reforesting, and other accepted agricultural practices. Whether the land is under lease and, if so, the effective length, terms, and conditions of the lease.
Only those land parts used in the commercial agricultural endeavor are included in the Agricultural Classification. A home, surrounding land and the outbuildings are not included. If the home is the owner’s primary residence, the owner may apply for a Homestead Exemption.
Like the homestead exemption, the Agricultural Classification has an annual filing period which is between January 1st and March 1st. However, January 1st is the statutory assessment date for all property, therefore, to qualify for agricultural classification a property must be in bona fide agricultural use on or before that date or otherwise a reasonable effort must have been made to place the property in bona fide agricultural use by January 1st.
Like I previously stated, just because a property previously had the agricultural classification, doesn’t mean that there will always be ag. The agricultural classification is not transferable to a new property owner. If a property is sold or the ownership transferred in some way, a new application for agricultural classification by the new property owner must be timely filed if the property is continued in bona fide agricultural use. This even means family. For example, if a father sells his property to another family member the agricultural classification will not transfer automatically. The family member that becomes the new owner will have to apply on their own merit. Even if the land had been in the family for generations. Also, if the use of an agricultural property is changed or discontinued, it is important to notify the Property Appraiser’s office of such change.
We often get questions if someone can have a few chickens or goats, etc. and get an agricultural classification. Remember, only “bone fide” commercial agricultural use would qualify a parcel for an ag classification. A hobby farm, horses for pleasure, or personal use such as feeding a steer for personal consumption or chickens for personal egg consumption, etc. would not qualify as a bone fide agribusiness.
If a parcel is zoned “agricultural” by the county, this does not mean it is automatically eligible for the classification. Only land that is being utilized for a “bona fide” agricultural commercial business producing either food or fiber to benefit the economy, with the intent of earning a profit, would be considered for the benefit of agricultural classification.
The Citrus County Property Appraiser’s office is often told how amazing our website is compared to others. We pride ourselves in having state of the art mapping features, the ability to file for homestead online, search our property database, etc. But did you know that we also have an entire section dedicated to Agriculture. There are multiple sections that cover different guidelines, types of agricultural use, Ag F.A.Q. as well as the application to apply for the classification. We understand that sometimes the classification can seem a little tricky, or hard to understand, so we are here to help answer any questions you may have. Feel free to contact our office at (352) 341-6600 or stop into our Inverness Office and speak with our Agriculture Specialist or Commercial Department Manager.