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NAIS: unintended consequences

By Walter Jeffries
for eco-logic/Powerhouse

July 01, 2006

An interesting thought occurred to me on the way out to feed the pigs: Premises ID implies farm. Farm buildings are tax exempt real estate in many states.

If the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (AoA) is going to be forcing the obligations of Premises ID onto everyone with any livestock, then those people with even one chicken should also accrue the benefit of being a farm - that is to say, any portion of their property used for said livestock should be exempt from real estate taxes.

This could probably be argued quite well in the courts. Before the legislature allows the AoA to force Premises ID, or any other component of NAIS onto Vermonters, they may want to first consider the substantial financial implication this event will have, on the real estate tax rolls for both the state and towns.

One interesting implication is that in order to qualify for the real estate tax break, all that someone will need to do is buy a chicken. Cool! That means the state, by putting through Premises ID but blocking Animal ID and the rest of NAIS, would be encouraging small-scale, local, sustainable agriculture. If more people owned livestock, they might garden and produce more of their own food, rather than buying it from stores. This would lead to more small local farmers. People would become more in-touch with their rural roots. Vermont could see a reduction of dependence on long-distance suppliers of food, and use less petroleum. Large producers outside of Vermont would see a loss of sales. Local suppliers of livestock, feeds and veterinarian services would see a blooming of trade. Is this NAIS’s silver lining?

All of this hinges on people being able to get that tax-exempt status. Personally, I hope the legislature specifically states,in law, that anyone who complies with Premises ID must be given the exemption from real estate taxes for all property used for keeping any livestock. That would be fair, and put a kink in the AoA. The towns will love you.

Walter Jeffries operates the Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont, and manages the NoNais.org website.


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