Challenges and opportunities for agroforestry practitioners to participate in state preferential property tax programs for agriculture and forestry
All 50 states offer preferential property tax programs that lower the taxes paid on enrolled agricultural and/or forest lands. While agroforestry is a land use that combines elements of both agriculture and forestry, eligibility criteria and other rules and regulations may prevent landowners from enrolling agroforestry practices in one or more of the agricultural and forestry tax programs. This pilot scale study developed conceptual and methodological frameworks to identify the current barriers to and opportunities in preferential tax policies applicable to agroforestry practices. We conducted an extensive review of state preferential property tax programs relevant for agroforestry practices, following focus group discussions with regional experts in five selected states across the United States: North Carolina, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York, and Oregon. Based on a systematic review of statutes and their supporting documents, we developed a database of programs, which support or create barriers to enrollment of agroforestry practitioners into the programs. We found that agricultural tax assessments were more likely to favor multi-use agriculture and forestry systems than the preferential tax assessments of forestlands in the five states. Forest farming and silvopasture, followed by alley cropping, windbreaks, and riparian forest buffers, were found to be the most common agroforestry practices allowed under preferential tax classifications in the study states. This study provides a framework for cataloging and analyzing preferential property tax programs to document barriers and facilitators to agroforestry practices in the United States.