Legislature Exempts High Tunnels From Real Estate Taxes

12/21/2013 7:00 AM

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Last week the Pennsylvania House and Senate sent two bills to the governor that exempt high tunnels and hoop houses from real estate taxes, SB 638 and HB 1439.

Both bills received unanimous approval in both houses.

Over the past several years, Blair and Erie counties had begun to levy real estate taxes on high tunnels.

Developed by Penn State in the late 1990s, high tunnels were quickly adopted by many sectors of agriculture to extend the growing season, shelter animals and for a variety of other agricultural uses.

Their use spread quickly beyond Pennsylvania to the entire country.

“We want to thank the chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) and chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee John Maher (R-Allegheny),” said Jim Mackenzie, board chairman of the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association.

“Sen. Vogel, Rep. Maher and their staffs worked to draft legislation and shepherd it through the legislative process in a very busy year,” Mackenzie said.

“We are pleased that the General Assembly moved so quickly on this,” said Dan Eichenlaub, chairman of the association’s government affairs committee. “Once they became aware of the problem, legislation was drafted, introduced and passed within nine months.”

High tunnels have allowed nurseries, landscape contractors and garden centers to extend the growing season into the spring and fall, and to protect their plants from snow damage and temperature extremes during the winter.

If high tunnels were to be taxed, it would have removed the economic benefits of these inexpensive structures.

“One of the keys to the success of this legislative effort was the backing of the Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations,” said Gregg Robertson, government relations consultant to nursery association and a board member of farm council.

“PSCFO provides a forum in which all segments of Pennsylvania agriculture could work together on this common issue,” Robertson said.

“We were able to quickly mobilize the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the Pennsylvania State Grange, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association and the other 60 members of PSCFO,” he said. “I think legislators appreciated that agriculture was speaking with one voice.”

Source: Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations.

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