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What agriculture use means for farmers and Loudoun

Ben Renshaw at his Waterford winery, 8 Chains North. -Times Mirror/Ben Hancock
In November 2012 Ben Renshaw walked onto a piece of land in Purcellville and knew immediately he had walked onto his next vineyard.

Renshaw, the owner of 8 Chains North Winery off Route 9 in Waterford, is a tall strong-looking man who considers himself more of a farmer who makes wine than a winemaker who happens to farm.

He immediately knew he wanted the land because of his more than a decade of experience growing grapes. It was a feeling he got, that could only come from having walked countless vineyards and having seen rows of grapes destroyed by frost.

When he discusses the 150-acre plot of land he bought, Renshaw uses words like domed and airy. He explains the space the way you would expect a sommelier at a fine dining establishment to describe a fine Malbec or Cab Franc.

How he built the business is anything but elegant though: 70-hour work weeks doing what he calls "young-man's work" and using the few natural advantages he had in front of him.

The business just started to turn a profit this past year and he took a week-long vacation, his first in a decade.

Some of the advantages included putting his grape-growing land under agriculture use.

"Loudoun County adopted the Land Use Assessment Program in 1973. The program provides for the deferral of real estate taxes on real estate that qualifies for agricultural, horticultural, forestry and open-space uses," said Bob Wertz, commissioner of revenue, in an email.

Usually for crops like corn or soy beans, there must be a five-year crop history built up.

There is a special provision, however, allowing land for grape-growing to immediately be considered under agricultural use if it has five acres of grapes planted prior to being accepted into the program and a land use application is submitted to the commissioner of revenue's office.

The reason is because it can take up to five years to achieve full production of usable grapes.

For a farmer like Renshaw and countless other prospective winery owners, agricultural use allows them to build a business that is slow going at first into something that can last.

An important thing to consider, though, before disregarding land use as a tax dodge, is the possible effect simply not developing could have on the economy.

Agriculture and forestry use means fewer homes constructed and less of a tax burden from the homes and all of the costly supporting infrastructure that comes with new residents.

Creating large swaths of property zoned for agriculture or forestry also means the county, which seems to pride itself on that innate meaning of what it feels like to be a Loudouner, can perserve the rural-urban western-eastern dynamic.

It's something Renshaw also realizes, something you can't do an economic impact study on.


Is the stadium being built with private funds?
Is anyone going to thank the BoS for denying the latest development of 557 new homes, still waiting?

Loudoun Hounds - first pitch at the new stadium now rescheduled for 2027!!!

Loudoun County Supervisors- Americas finest!

LF, understood that many who DO farm have other professions that take them off the farm, often to help KEEP the farm.

That said, some do take advantage of the breadth of the allowances in order to pay less on their assets, while having very little to do with agricultual pursuits.  And that (IMO) does make it more difficult for people who actually engage in agriculture, animal hsubandry, etc on a scale beyond the minimums and writeoffs.

I would love to see a sliding scale of deferrals, with some relationship between percentage of income derived from agriculture and percentage of taxes deferred or excused.

Let me address some misconceptions.  A) You cannot get agricultural land use assessment on 20 acres by having six chickens.  On a 20 acre parcel, you would need to have a minimum of 400 chickens year around on the property.
B)the residential portion of the property where a house sits, whether it is on a 100 acre farm in Purcellville or a quarter acre lot in Ashburn is taxed the same.  The home, the yard, the driveway are all taxed the same.  The only portion of a property that is in Ag Land use that receives a tax deferral is the portion that is being used for agriculture.
C) the regulations for a farm winery require that 51% percent of the grapes used in production must come either from the property of the winery itself or from a vineyard that the owner of the winery owns or leases, so even if you don’t see grapes 10 feet from the front door, that winery is required to have a vineyard that they source most of their grapes from and cannot simply be a “wine bar” if they are in fact a farm winery.
D) there are many, many people who are legitimate farmers who hold off the farm jobs.  This is true whether you are in Loudoun County or Highland County. Just because someone also holds a city job does not mean that they cannot be legitimately meeting the income or production requirements for the land use program or are also running a profitable agricultural business.
If folks are interested in the requirements for entering the agricultural land use program check out http://www.loudoun.gov/DocumentCenter/Index/119 and search for the land use tax deferral documents.

RH, similar to the “farmers” with 6 chickens who pay less tax on 20 acres than easterners do for 1/7th of an acre.

We have a number of pseudo-wineries in the county who take advantage of the tax breaks, state-supported advertising on signs along our highways and generally benefit from pretending to be a winery and enjoying the benefits that accrue to what was thought to be an open-space preserving bit of zoning some time back.

Many of these pseudo wineries (e.g., Hunter’s Run on Route 9) are gaming the system and basically just running wine bars in residential areas.

We should absolutely support those who plant acres of vines and run a made-on-site winery.  The rest should be paying the same tax I do on my acres…

Mr. Grimes, “when the supervisor rezone all this agricultural land to some developers to build more housing developments” is a facile piece of fertilizer.

Agricultural land (that is actually being USED for agriculture) north of Rte9 in AR1 isn’t going to be rezoned to suburban development in this or the next few lifetimes.

To the reporter:  obviously this person profiled in your article is not executing a “tax dodge”, but use care in casting the blanket of their legitimate agricultral use over the person with no development rights who seeks an “open space” deferral, or the person with the 50-mile commute to their actual job who gets yes, a tax break for keeping a steer for beef on their large lot that is not otherwise a farm.

The backlash engendered by those loopholes harms people like the subject of this article (and agricultural industries in general) a lot more than it does the large lot “farmers” of the long commutes.

It’ll be a shame when the supervisor rezone all this agricultural land to some developers to build more housing developments.

Then everyone came blame the schools for rising taxes…. thats how the supervisors like it.

Scott York is a crook.

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