I’m a proud 5th generation rice farmer. My family and I have invested heavily in environmentally friendly technology – because it’s the right thing to do for our state’s long-term future. 

So, if I told you powerful special interests want to punish farmers with higher property taxes for installing solar energy on my property, would you believe me? 

Given California’s global environmental leadership, I was shocked to learn that’s exactly what will happen if voters don’t defeat a flawed November 2020 statewide ballot measure that will destroy Proposition 13’s property tax protections for farmers and businesses. 

Not only will the ballot measure strip away incentives for solar energy, but it will also raise property taxes by up to $12.5 billion per year—the largest property tax increase in California history.

Every Californian, farmer or not, will pay for this massive property tax through higher costs on everything we buy and use ranging from gas for our cars to food—all at a time when families can least afford it.

My family has been farming in California since 1898. We understand the uncertainty farmers face, whether it’s from mother nature, foreign trade deals or COVID-19. California’s guarantee of stable, predictable property taxes provided by Prop 13 is one of the few things that farmers can count on. 

Prop 13 calculates property taxes for residential, business and agricultural properties based on 1 percent of their purchase price. Property tax values are only allowed to go up by 2 percent a year, which limits drastic increases in property taxes, especially when property values rise quickly.

Knowing what I will pay in property taxes gives me the certainty to plan for the future. This certainty will disappear if we don’t defeat this flawed ballot proposition in November.

The special interests pushing this measure claim agricultural properties are exempt. 

The truth is it will strip Prop 13 protections for improvements on farms and ranches. For my farm, that means higher property taxes on rice dryers, storage silos, the shop where I store my tractors, processing facilities, and, as indicated earlier, the solar panels we installed to provide clean renewable power to our operation. 

This increased property tax burden will be added on just about every step of production, from when our rice leaves the field to the mill and then again when it hits the grocery store shelf.

Sadly, not only will the proposed property tax increase hurt consumers, but it will also penalize investments in renewable energy. Sustainability is a guiding principle for our farm. My family and I knowingly took on the added expense of installing solar panels under the assumption we would be able to provide a greener, more affordable product to consumers with lower future energy costs. 

However, unless defeated, the flawed ballot measure changes the rules of the game. 

It will eliminate the property tax incentive for solar energy systems that encourages green energy production in our state. As a result, my farm will be forced to pay property taxes on the full value of our solar panels.

This radical tax law change comes as California is struggling to meet its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045.

An unexpected property tax hike on solar energy systems will disrupt my farm and all other businesses that made expensive solar energy investments. It will raise property taxes on large-scale solar facilities throughout the state that provide power to consumers which will further drive up energy costs for California families. 

The powerful special interests pushing this massive property tax hike are out of touch with California’s environmentally friendly policies. 

Equally important, their scheme would destroy Prop. 13 and hurt our state’s farmers at a time when the nation relies more on California-grown food more than ever.

As a fifth-generation farmer deeply committed to sustainability and feeding our state, I urge all Californians to say no to the flawed property increase ballot measure this November. 

– Greg Van Dyke is a fifth-generation rice farmer from Sutter County. He is CEO of the Rice Growers Association of California and is also President of Cultivating Change Foundation, the largest LGBT-agriculture organization in the US. 

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