Ranchers land tax, animal tagging systems top legislators lists for legislative session

Bills addressing ranchers' land tax and animal tagging systems are main concerns for local legislators as they begin legislative efforts.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Agriculture, specifically beef production, has been the number one industry in South Dakota for years.

Now, that industry is facing issues during the year’s legislative session in Pierre. Those issues start with a substantial raise in taxes on ranchers’ land, due to a reclassification by the state some six years ago.

That classification says that because of the soil on those specific areas of land, they are considered cropland as opposed to grassland, which carries a higher tax rate.

In that survey conducted by the South Dakota Department of Revenue, it reclassified land that had historically been grassland to cropland. This raised taxes in those areas for ranchers as much as over 300 percent in some areas.

That rise in taxes has been battled by ranchers over the years and that battle continues.

Legislative Session 9

This land that’s reclassified is largely found to be unusable due to it being inaccessible for equipment, the land’s inability to hold moisture or even the amount of rocks in it.

“When they’re taxing at that rate and you can’t make the money to pay those taxes, it really isn’t an equalization or a fair tax,” said Les Shaw, the Vice President of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.

That tax bill, House Bill 1039, which reassesses the property to designate it as non-cropland was passed through the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday and is set to be debated on the House floor on Monday, January 24.

Legislators will also hear House Bill 1096, which hopes to address another issue facing producers, livestock identification. That bill was introduced on Thursday, January 20 and will now head to a committee for consideration.

Legislative Session 5

The goal is to ensure cattle producers’ freedom to choose their way of keeping track of or “tagging” their animals as well as the tracking of diseases.

“We see the current system is worked fine with our state veterinarian with different disease problems and tracking of livestock. So we see if, we say if a system works, why change it?,” Shaw said.

Those two bills will be carried by legislators, who will also be asked to spend nearly $2 billion in one-time this legislative session.

Some believe that money should go towards key problems, and some believe this should be allocated towards infrastructure in helping producers get their products to market.

“So many of these counties are hurting,” said Rep. Marty Overweg, of District 19. “Gravel roads just can’t get semis in or off and roads that were underwater that now need repair, culverts that were washed out. We just need infrastructure.”

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