What the Florida “Agritourism” Statutes Do — And Do Not, Do: Part I
We wanted to create a three-part series to provide some clarity on these complex issues. Check back later this month for Parts II and III!
Florida Statutes 570.85 to 570.89, or the “Agritourism Statutes,” are well known to agribusinesses across Florida. At first blush, they appear to be all-powerful statutes freeing ag property owners of local government restrictions. For example, Fla. Stat. 570.85 states:
“a local government may not adopt or enforce a local ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy that prohibits, restricts, regulates, or otherwise limits an agritourism activity on land…”
To the untrained eye, this is a holy grail of sorts, allowing property owners to conduct their agritourism business how they please, free of government inference. Well, dearest readers, I’m here to ruin the fun. These seemingly straightforward statutes, alongside Fla. Stat. 823.14 (the Right to Farm Act), and Fla. Stat. 193.461 (the Ag Tax Classification), have unfortunately created more confusion and frustration than they’re worth.
It goes something like this: a prospective client emails my office, explaining that they have “agricultural property,” so they — should have a lower tax rate, or the city or county shouldn’t be able to stop them from doing a certain activity, or that they must be exempt from permitting. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And to help sort through some of these frequently asked questions, we’re prepared a list of what the “agritourism” statutes do, and do not, do.
The Agritourism Statutes Do Apply to Property Owners with the Ag Tax Classification, But No One Else
The language of Fla. Stat. 570.85 is clear: “a local government may not adopt or enforce a local ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy that prohibits, restricts, regulates, or otherwise limits an agritourism activity on land classified as agricultural land under s. 193.461.” Fla. Stat. 193.461 is the ag tax classification statute. So, read together, the Agritourism Statutes only apply if you have the ag tax classification. See my full blog post on that ag tax “exemption” here.
In a nutshell, the ag classification is not an easy feat to obtain, and some counties make it more difficult than others— requiring four years of ag-related income records, lease agreements, copies of personal property tax returns for equipment, or directing how certain agribusinesses, like nurseries or hatcheries, should operate. See, for example, Hillsborough County’s Ag Classification Guide.
So, if you don’t have this classification already in place, you will not benefit from the Agritourism Statutes. But you may not want the classification anyway. This is another important point often lost on property owners or prospective buyers–the more “improvements” you make to the property, the less advantageous the ag classification is for you. That’s because part of the calculation incorporates the value of existing farm buildings, which may drive up the ag value of the land and in turn may not actually reduce your tax burden as much as anticipated. Similarly, any part of the land that is claimed as homestead will not be included in the ag classification and will be taxed at the normal fair market value.
Moreover, every change of ownership requires the new owner to reapply. In other words, do not base your ability to conduct agritourism activities on the prior owner’s ag tax classification. You are unlikely to be re-granted the ag classification within the first year after your purchase, and will likely have to pay property taxes on the fair market value instead, unless you intend to continue, uninterrupted, the prior owner’s ag operations and are able to immediately reapply for the classification after closing. That’s why it’s important to speak with an attorney, CPA, or your county property appraiser’s office to determine whether the ag tax classification is even worth pursuing.
Part II will cover Agricultural Zoning and the Right to Farm Act. Stay tuned!
Questions about the Agritourism Statutes? Let’s chat. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.
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