A Tale of Two Borders: Use‐Value Assessment, Land Development, and Irrigation Investment

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Since 1960, all 50 states in the US have adopted some form of preferential tax treatment for farmland. These provisions often take the form of use-value assessment, where farmland is taxed on the basis of its value in agricultural production, as opposed to its full market value. While the main goal of use-value assessment is to slow the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses, other channels of influence are also possible, such as those stemming from reinvestment of foregone tax expenses. Despite its widespread nature, there is little empirical evidence pertaining to the influence of use-value assessment on land-use or investment decisions. Using a postmatching difference-in-differences framework, we exploit the temporal and spatial discontinuities surrounding the adoption of use-value assessment in Kansas in 1989 to measure how use-value assessment affected plot-level land development and irrigation investment decisions. The results of our analysis indicate that, as intended, the use-value assessment policy curtailed development in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Evidence regarding the potential investment-spurring effects of use-value assessment is more mixed, suggesting that farmers may have increased irrigation in some areas because of use-value assessment-induced tax savings.




Bigelow, D. P., & Kuethe, T. (2020). A tale of two borders: use‐value assessment, land development, and irrigation investment. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 102(5), 1404-1424.
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