Baltimore Passes Urban Farm Tax Credit
On Monday, May 4th, 2015, the Baltimore City Council sent a bill to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that grants tax breaks to urban farmers in the community. The tax break pertains to farmers who grow and sell at least $5,000 worth of fruits and vegetables a year.
Much work was done in preparation for this bill, including help from the Global Obesity Prevention Center's (GOPC) Policy Working Group. On February 6th, 2014, Policy Working Group members met with Councilman William "Pete" Welch and his representative Dawn Lewis to collaborate and discuss the Urban Agriculture Property Tax Credit.
During this meeting, Councilman Welch provided an update on the bill itself and the supplemental pieces of legislation. The supplemental pieces of legislation are in support of a buy down program, which would buy down the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables produced by urban farmers. This program could help to rectify the food deserts that exist in many of the neighborhoods in the city of Baltimore by 1) making fresh produce affordable in areas where residents make food-purchasing decisions largely based on price and 2) merchants experience greater profit margin when produce is made cheaper.
The Policy Working Group members provided a simulation model during this meeting that showed the potential impact the tax credit could have. The preliminary results suggested that the tax credits for urban agriculture may lead to positive changes in the food environment, food access and dietary behaviors in six Districts over a five-year period.
Under the urban tax credit, the agent-based model (ABM) forecasts changes in the food environment, food access and dietary behaviors in Baltimore City.
The Policy Working Group presented the simulation model in hopes to provide the proper evidence needed to move the tax credit bill forward.
Several months later, the Policy Working Group was invited to provide testimony at a public hearing to facilitate communication between research and policy. During the hearing, the working group presented a video that indicates the predicted impact of property tax credits for urban agriculture.
On Monday, May 11th, 2015, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed the tax credit which will have an impact on about a dozen urban farms in Baltimore.