MINOT — Selectmen on Monday night heard a presentation on a state program that could, if implemented by the town, reduce taxes on qualifying farmland.

Stephanie Gilbert of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry detailed guidelines of the state’s Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program for selectmen.

Enacted in 2011, the program offers property tax reimbursements on working farmland if the landowners commit their land in a 20-year conservation easement that would prohibit development. The minimum stipulations include five contiguous acres that produce agricultural products and generate at least $2,000 a year in income.

Unlike the Farmland Protection Act, buildings — including the residence — can also be included in the easement if municipalities so stipulate in the program’s criteria.

Gilbert said the state law establishing the program provides a framework, but communities can modify specifics based on local desires, including imposing a larger acreage minimum, a higher minimum income, a greater tax reimbursement up to 100 percent, and allowing access for hunting and other recreational use.

Communities are also given the right to limit the number of applications and determine which part of the town’s farmland can apply.

Landowners would have to state in the application the agricultural intent of the land and how much land and how many buildings would be included in the easement, and include a farm income report.

Gilbert said Winslow was the first community to adopt the program in 2013. Since then, Monmouth and Windham have also showed interest in accepting the program, she said.

She suggested Minot should set up a working group to survey townspeople; get an inventory of farmland; and consider what special criteria the town could apply.

According to the town assessor’s agent, Denis Berube, Minot has 57 farmland accounts and 3,500 acres of farmland.

Gilbert provided copies of Winslow’s criteria and application requirements.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve French said there was a lot to digest and this session will “generate more questions than answers.”


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