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Another decade of farm tax breaks up for vote in Stowe

Adecades-old Stowe property tax exemption has ensured that, even as development spreads throughout town, it still tends to end where farmers’ fields begin.

Voters will decide next month whether to let those agrarian tax breaks continue for another decade.

“There wouldn’t be no farmers in Stowe if it weren’t for that,” Paul Percy, one of Stowe’s most prominent dairy farmers, said of the “farmer’s contract” up for a vote on the March 7 Town Meeting Day agenda.

Under the contract, which was implemented in the mid-1970s, participating Stowe farmers are taxed at a flat rate based on a reduced property assessment of $200 per acre enrolled in the contract, which is less than half of what the state taxes agriculture property enrolled in the current use program — as of last year, the state taxes such land based on an appraisal of $429 per acre.

Town property assessor Tim Morrissey said the town will almost certainly increase the tax in the next round of contracts, if voters approve the measure. Still, it will still be less than the state’s rate and much less than fair market rates.

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Bumper Crops: Cover Crops and Water Quality

Video: Bumper Crops: Cover Crops and Water Quality

"A cover crop can physically protect the soil from powerful raindrops that will dislodge the soil and make it easier to erode off of our field. So of course our organic matter and our P and K move with that, and that's a surface water pollutant. From an AG water quality standpoint, is there a gold standard cover crop? I think rye is a good starter crop. It's not fun and exciting, but it does the job. It fits well into corn and soybean systems, because you can plant it so late and even if it doesn't germinate in the fall, we do tend to see spring growth in February when we get those warmer days. It's a great scavenger of nutrients, so it's going to take that nitrate in the soil and put it in an organic form which is relatively safe."