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Baltimore Combats Food Deserts With Urban Farming Tax Break

Councilman William “Pete” Welch drafted the bill.

The tax break’s greatest benefit is its potential to clean, fill, and beautify the city, which she expects will restore the economic health and confidence both of Baltimore and of its residents.

By Julianne Tveten
15 June 2015


Urban farmers in the city of Baltimore will soon qualify for a 90 percent property tax break under a bill recently approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The move, which is the latest in a series of tax-break initiatives for city growers seen in areas like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., is intended to bolster local production of healthy food.

Drafted by Councilman William “Pete” Welch, the bill, which will likely go into effect next month, gives a tax credit to farmers who make at least $5,000 per year selling crops and raise no more than five acres of land.

The initiative came about in response to a Maryland agricultural tax law, says Abby Cocke, Environmental Planner for the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. Under the law, farmed properties of five acres or more qualify for a tax credit. But most urban farms in Baltimore don’t meet the size criterion. In fact, Cocke says, the average urban farm in Baltimore occupies about one acre, meaning most of the city’s farming parcels have netted no tax benefits, no matter how fruitful.

“The state legislature said, ‘here’s some enabling legislation that lays out some guidelines; come up with your own tax bit.’ What we were trying to do is get people to a comparable level of what they would get at the state level,” Cocke says.

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