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DEM, URI Announce March 7 "Transferring the Farm" Workshop

Session Designed to Help Farm Families Minimize Farm Business Succession Risks

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Agriculture, in conjunction with the University of Rhode Island will host a workshop entitled "Transferring the Farm" on Thursday, March 7 at East Farm. Targeted to farm families, the four-hour workshop will address topics such as estate planning, business agreements, trusts and retirement.

The workshop will feature five informational sessions on various issues affecting farmers and their families. The first session, "Getting the Farm Transfer Process Started," will talk about communicating for success, looking at the future of the farm, setting family goals, and ways to include the whole family. "Succession vs. Estate Planning" will examine ways to assure that farmers' assets go to their heirs and set up the next farming generation for success. The third session, "Transferring the Farm Tools and Techniques," will address various economic considerations in farm business and farmland transfers related to income, taxes, gifts, and ownership transfer.

A discussion on how business entity selection, gifting, leasing and other legal aspects affect the farm transfer will take place during the session entitled "Legal Structure and Agreements." Medicaid and health care issues related to planning the farm transition will also be covered in this session. The final session of the day is entitled "Rhode Island Estate and Capital Gains Taxes, and Land Linking." Federal and state law pertaining to estate and capital gains taxes in Rhode Island will be discussed, along with a new program to help farm owners and potential buyers or lessees link to each other.

Featured speakers at the workshop include David Sullivan, tax administrator for the state Division of Taxation, who will address estate and capital gains taxes in Rhode Island. Also speaking will be Bob Parsons, extension specialist with the University of Vermont who has conducted more than 30 workshops on estate and succession planning across New England for more than 1,100 farmers. The third speaker for the workshop is Kathy Ruhf, interim executive director of Land for Good and a nationally recognized leader in farm succession and tenure.

There is no charge for the workshop, but space is limited to the first 50 participants. Pre-registration is required by February 28. To register, contact Heather Faubert at the URI extension at 874-2967 or via email at hhf@uri.edu. Individuals in need of disability-related accommodations to participate in the program should contact Heather Faubert with their requests by February 28th. Funding for the workshop is being provided by the Northeast Center for Risk Management and USDA.

The workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Building # 75 at East Farm at the University of Rhode Island. East Farm is located on Route 108 in South Kingstown. The entrance is mile south of the main traffic light of Kingston Village. Building # 75 is near the bottom of the driveway and ample parking is available.

DEM Issues Guidance Document on Maintaining Working Farms and Forests

In addition to co-hosting the Transferring the Farm workshop, DEM is taking other steps to assist owners of farm and forest land. The Department has produced a guidance document, Community Guidance to Maintain Working Farms and Forests, to help encourage landowners to create small businesses. Such businesses would provide an economic incentive for land owners to maintain their working landscapes.

Currently, most Rhode Island municipalities segregate business and residential uses into distinct districts. Most business uses of property are precluded in residential zones. The vast majority of Rhode Island farm and forest land is zoned for residential use. While farmers can generate some revenue from the sale of agricultural products, more money is often needed to keep the farm going. The situation is much worse for forest land owners, who rarely can rely on conventional timber products to make a living. Since land values for Rhode Island farm and forest land are among the highest in the nation, there is a constant pressure to sell land for residential development. The conversion of farms and forests to house lots irreversibly destroys the many values these natural resources provide. This practice also adds to a haphazard, sprawling development pattern that is economically unsustainable. Recognizing this problem, DEM saw a need to develop guidance material that demonstrates how towns can revise their existing land use regulations to allow appropriate small businesses without impacting adjacent land owners or community character.

"This guidance material is a resource for towns to use to protect working landscapes," noted DEM Director Janet Coit. "It supplements existing DEM programs to provide funding to purchase farms and forests and encourages creative zoning such as conservation development and the transfer of development rights, which preserve open space as land is developed."

A list of potential business uses is provided in the guidance document, along with reasonable performance standards to prevent business use of farm and forest land from becoming a problem in the neighborhood. The guidance also contains a regulatory framework to allow communities to make the necessary changes to their land use regulations to encourage the creation of small businesses. Project manager Scott Millar of DEM's Office of Planning and Development said, "DEM is trying to show that the key to allowing successful small business and economic development on farm and forest land is the scale and appearance of a use on a given parcel of land and not the use of the land itself. The performance standards we developed will place reasonable safeguards on land usage to insure that it blends into the community."

Millar noted that DEM is receiving positive feedback on the guidance from municipal officials. "Communities see this as a win/win scenario where they can protect their community character and encourage more economic development and jobs," he said.

DEM, in conjunction with the Narragansett Bay Research Reserve's Coastal Training program will provide training on the guidance material to local officials. For more information and a copy of the guidance document, contact Scott Millar at scott.millar@dem.ri.gov. The guidance is also available on DEM's website at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bpoladm/suswshed/pdfs/farmfor.pdf.

Related links

Department or agency: Department of Environmental Management

Online: http://www.dem.ri.gov/

Release date: 02-19-2013

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