State’s Ag Preservation Program Moving Slow, but Moving Forward

REGION – Landowners who have applied to enroll their land in Michigan's PA 116 program – in which they agree to keep their land in agricultural use for 10 to 90 years in exchange for various special assessments and potential tax credits – might have to sit tight a little longer this tax season.

Rich Harlow, farmland preservation and open space program Manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural development (MDARD) says the PA 116 office has received a large number of requests to enroll and extend existing agreements in the last year.

"A total of 1,405 new applications were received in 2011 – three times the number of new applications received in recent years," he says. "Also, requests to extend the 5,000 agreements that expired at the end of 2011 were received, and requests were received to extend approximately 20,000 agreements not yet due to expire."

The influx has given rise to a slowdown in processing, which in turn has amped up some discussion and worry about PA 116's future. Not to worry, says Harlow: "During this tax season, please be assured the PA 116 program is diligently working to get your documents processed so you may obtain your tax credits. PA 116 is operating in the same manner as in previous years, and landowners are still able to enroll land in the program."

The MDARD currently holds more than 42,000 farmland agreements protecting over 3.2 million acres of Michigan farmland. Since PA 116's inception in 1974, Harlow says the loss of farmland in Michigan has stabilized.

PA 116 Agreements that have been processed are available at the local county register of deeds. Landowners who have questions about the whereabouts of their application or extension request are encouraged to call 517-373-3328. BN