First, it's important to keep in mind that both the 480-A section of the Real Property Tax Law (a tax abatement program for land used to produce forest products), as well as the Ag Assessment (305) Program (for land used to produce agricultural products) were written decades ago, long before anyone was talking about agroforestry or silvopasturing (hybrid production systems)
NY Farm Bureau has been working over the past two years with relevant state agencies and supportive officials to update the Ag Assessment Program. The Ag Assessment Program already allows up to 50 acres of "farm woodlands per tax parcel" to be enrolled in the program. Unfortunately, the abatement benefits of the Ag Assessment Program are usually relatively low compared to 480-A, but at the same time, so are the management requirements and "committments" of the program. Each abatement program has it's pros and cons, so it's important to understand the comparative differences and eligibility requirements to decide which might work best for your situation.
With that said, I don't expect that 480-A will be ammended in the near future to specifically include agroforestry practices, since: "Eligible tracts must be managed primarily for forest crop production..." However, the law also states: "... although other compatible uses, such as forest recreation and watershed management can be allowed". Therefore, there is some discretion left up to the landowner and foresters (both your consulting forester that writes the plan, as well as the DEC forester that approves the plan) to determine what other uses are "compatible" with timber production. Since silvopasturing is the "sustainable production of timber, forages and livestock on the same land", then by definition it should be compatible with "forest crop production".
I think that some of the keys to getting a 480-A plan approved with a silvopasturing component would be dependent on things like:
- showing the silvicultural justifications of using silvopasturing as a management tool (vegetation control, rehabilitation of degraded sites, soil scarification for regeneration of target species like oak, etc)
- finding supportive and open-minded foresters
- making sure that the project fits the site
- that long-term timber production is not significantly compromised
- make sure that the estimated tax break is worth the extra "costs"!
Brett & Thomas:
When we do a 480a plan we need to include this statement about alternative uses:
Recreational and educational uses such as hunting, fishing, nature study, hiking, cross country skiing, foraging for berries, mushrooms or other minor plants, or motorized recreation such as snowmobiling, which do not damage trees nor interfere with forest crop production, may be allowed at the owner’s discretion. More intensive uses such as harvesting selected Christmas trees, tapping maple trees for sap production or commercial recreational pursuits [like hunting leases] shall be addressed in detail with standards that assure compatibility with and are supportive of forest crop production.
I'm wondering if we look at silvopasture as an 'intensive use' , then we should be able to classify under 480a as long as we provide the 'detail with standards that assure compatibility and are supportive of crop production'. But as Brett says you need open minded [DEC] Foresters.