As you know, last month I had the opportunity to attend the Black Hills Association of County Commissioners for their countywide meeting. Stacey Martin from Fall River County, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Coordinator presented an excellent overview of information to the commissioners and guests regarding the flaws in the state’s new soil reassessment table and how it drives tax assessments up higher than we have seen in over a decade. In a nutshell, the state’s new table moves easily soil over to cropland status doubling and, in some cases, tripling the value of the land and thus the taxes.
That meeting led to an open forum last Wednesday, that was attended by AG Producers from across West River to discuss the problems and possible solutions for the over valuation of Agriculture rangeland within the State’s AG Productivity System.
Joining in on the meeting via Zoom was David Wiest, Deputy Secretary of Department of Revenue, and Wendy Semmler, Director of the Property Tax Division. After a lengthy presentation from the Department of Revenue, the take-away for me and many others was that not only are the soil tables wrong, the formula is “broken” (it doesn’t calculate properly).
These tables were generated by Dr. Elliott at SDSU using artificial intelligence. It is my understanding that there never were boots on the ground to visually verify the data or to inspect the land. Instead, these new soil tables are also based on soil surveys from the 1970’s and 1980’s. The adjustments were significant! For example, Fall River County has gone from 91 soil types to 270 soil types. Soils categorized as 'cropland' currently comprise 14% of Fall River County's Ag land. The table proposed in July 2020 increased this to 42% of the county's ag land; an update to the proposed table has since dropped this to 28% heading in the right direction. New increases won’t take effect until 2024 but it is the hope of Susie Hayes, Fall River County Assessor, to work with SDSU and DOR to, at the very least, navigate back to something similar to the original table currently in place.
During a two-hour meeting I had in Pierre with Deputy Secretary Wiest and Director Semmler they felt that the issues we were experiencing were an, “anomaly” specific to Fall River County. The DOR now recognizes that it is a statewide problem that effects every county in South Dakota and acknowledges that the new soil tables need to be put on hold until they can find the “bugs”, be properly vetted, identify the problems and fix them. The DOR’s new goal is to have better information. I’d like to see accurate, verified information!
Where do we go from here? How are we going to solve this?
• First and foremost, fill out your AG Applications and paperwork.
New laws are requiring the filing of updated Ag Applications. The deadline is November 1st.
• Owners in need of Ag soil Adjustments have only until August 31st to file the new state application for those.
• Check with your county Assessor’s Office for deadlines and requirements specific to your county.
• Next, it was suggested that AG Producers get actively involved by reinstating the AG Coalition across all counties in order to stay informed, advocate for legislation and have a united, stronger voice in Pierre.
• As Legislators we need to get involved. I contacted my counterpart, Tim Goodwin, and as your legislators for District 30, we will be working on re-introducing SB 4. This was a bill that was originally introduced by the Senate in 2016, but was tabled because the new SDSU tables were going to “fix” the issues. We now know that the new tables didn’t fix it! The bill we will be introducing, is a piece of legislation that will address the issues of soil use, soil types, and native grassland protection.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank both Stacey Martin and Susie Hayes for their exhaustive research into this problem and their grit to stand strong against opposition. Because of them, our ranchers and producers statewide will benefit from their hard work and tenacity.
Rep. Trish Ladner, District 30