In This Issue
Farmers Worried By Possible New Capital Gains, Estate Tax Liability
Very few farm families pay estate taxes but almost all large-scale farmers are worried that changes in the tax code will increase their exposure to capital gains or estate taxes, said a Purdue University survey released on Tuesday. The poll was conducted before the White House said nearly all inherited farms would be exempt from the proposed tax changes.
Some 95% of producers taking part in the Purdue survey said they were “somewhat” or “very” concerned about possible elimination of “stepped-up basis” in calculating the value of inherited property. Under stepped-up basis, property is assessed at its current value, rather than the price it was acquired. By ending the stepped-up basis, capital gains taxes would generally go up.
Purdue economists Jim Mintert and Michael Langemeier, a contributor of the Journal of the ASFMRA, oversee the survey, which you can find here
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Bill and Melinda Gates' Divorce Puts Massive Farmland Holdings in Focus
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda announced plans to end their 27-year marriage on last week. The high-profile split, with Gates' fortune estimated at over $130 billion per Forbes, raises questions about how their assets may be divided — and that includes U.S. land.
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Earlier this year they became the largest owners of farmland in the United States, according to Land Report. The Land Report researchers concluded that Gates, now the fourth richest man in the world, and his wife, Melinda, own 242,000 acres of farmland.
They own roughly 52,000 more acreage than the Offutt family, which sits at No. 2 on Land Report's list of families who own the most farmland in the U.S. In total, Bill and Melinda Gates have acquired land in more than a dozen states. However, his largest land holdings are in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres), Nebraska (20,588 acres), Arizona (25,750 acres) and Washington state (16,097).
Study: Lamb Grazing, Solar Panels a Good Mix
Land productivity could be greatly increased by combining sheep grazing and solar energy production on the same land, according to new research by Oregon State University scientists.
The researchers compared lamb growth and pasture production in pastures with solar panels and traditional open pastures. They found less overall but higher quality forage in the solar pastures and that lambs raised in each pasture type gained similar amounts of weight. The solar panels, of course, provide value in terms of energy production, which increases the overall productivity of the land.
Solar panels also benefit the welfare of the lambs by providing shade, which allows the animals to preserve energy. Also lamb grazing alleviates the need to manage plant growth under the solar panels through herbicides or regular mowing, which require extra labor and costs.Read the Full Story
A Farmer Moved a 200-Year-Old Stone, and the French-Belgian Border
When it comes to redrawing nations’ borders, scores of diplomats can spend years painstakingly hashing out every inch of the dividing line. For the border between France and Belgium to be redrawn, all it seemingly took was one farmer.
Apparently frustrated by a 200-year-old stone border marker, a Belgian farmer dug it out and moved it about 7 feet into French territory, local officials told French news media, thus slightly enlarging his own land as well as the entire country of Belgium.
The displaced stone was spotted last month by a sharp-eyed group of Frenchmen, who for the past few years have wandered the countryside of their local area in northern France, following the border and checking each marker they encountered against a map showing the stones’ original locations.Read the Full Story
Big Tax Breaks on Conservation Easements Draw IRS Scrutiny
In recent decades, conservation easements have succeeded in saving millions of acres of open space and wildlife habitat in the United States, becoming the leading method of preserving land from development.
These easements also have generated billions of dollars in tax deductions for wealthy owners and developers, sometimes for properties with little or no public benefit, according to tax authorities, tax law specialists and Congress members.
A bipartisan Senate panel found last year that the conservation tax break had given rise to a practice called syndicated easements, in which investors purchase a stake in a property with the expectation that the land will be donated for conservation. They get a large tax deduction in return. The report found widespread abuses, including inflated appraisals and fraud. This month, the IRS announced the creation of a new office to target these deals and other abusive tax schemes.Read the Full Story
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