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December 19, 2002

State Agencies Launch "Don't Throw Out the Green" Campaign to Help Farmers
Retain Property Tax Classification

TALLAHASSEE - Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and the state Department of Revenue are teaming up to ask Florida farmers to send in important property tax forms that will allow them to retain their agricultural classification in 2003.

Because of a change in state law, farmers, ranchers and growers in most Florida counties will be required to fill out and send in postcard-size green renewal cards (Form DR-499C) for their agricultural classifications by March 1, 2003. Farmers will receive the agricultural classification renewal cards in the mail in early to mid-January from their property appraiser. By having their property classified as agricultural for property tax purposes, farmers receive substantial reductions in their property tax bills.

Under a previous state law, the agricultural classification application operated by "automatic renewal" in most Florida counties, just as the popular Florida homestead exemption currently does. That is, farmers sent in cards only if they were no longer entitled to receive the agricultural classification. Farmers have become used to not sending in the green cards.

However, under a 2002 law, farmers who don't fill out and send in their green agricultural-classification cards in early 2003 could be throwing away their tax benefit. Under the new law, farmers must actively certify to property appraisers that they are entitled to the agricultural classification in the 2003 tax year. If they fail to fill out and send in the DR-499C application or an application provided to them by their local property appraiser, the applicant may lose the tax benefit they receive from their agricultural classification.

To help inform farmers about this important requirement, Commissioner Bronson and the Revenue Department are reaching out to Florida farm organizations, national and state agricultural agencies, local government officials, the Florida news media, and business associations that serve the farming community.

The agencies are sending out news releases, posters, flyers, and direct-mail appeals asking farmers, ranchers and growers to be sure to fill out the DR-499C form and send it to their property appraiser.

State officials also asked leaders of farming communities to reach out to those eligible for the agricultural classification to help them understand the importance of complying with the change in law.

"Our goal is to ensure that every Florida farmer, rancher or grower who is legally entitled to receive an agricultural classification knows how to apply for it," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue. "We would appreciate any help in reaching that goal."

About 250,000 Florida farm properties receive agricultural classifications in a typical year. Overall, the agricultural classifications reduced Florida farmers' property tax bills by an estimated $500 million in 2001, the Department of Revenue said.

"It is extremely important that all agricultural landowners return the postcards as soon as possible," said Sam Ard, Chairman of the Florida Agricultural Coalition. "The difference in assessments could be astronomical, and could force many of our farms to sell or change land uses just to pay taxes. This classification has been growth management's best friend in Florida, and it is important for our entire state that we follow up with this request."