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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How a half-dozen cows slashed Sen. Bill Nelson's property tax bill

14

February

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has been many things over the years. State legislator. Congressman. Astronaut. Insurance commissioner.

In Brevard County, he is a gentleman farmer.

Thanks to a half-dozen cows that graze Nelson's 55 acres on the Indian River, he saved $43,000 in property taxes last year.

Nelson does not live there or own the cows. He leases the land, at no cost, to a cattle operation. Nelson says he gets to preserve undeveloped land while providing for a waning industry.

Yet the small herd has saved Nelson big taxes. The land has a full market value of $2.7 million, but the county tax collector uses the agricultural value of $210,000. That reduced Nelson's tax bill in 2011 to $3,696.

When Nelson has sold parts of the agriculture land, he did so at full market value. In some states he would have had to return part of the tax break. Not Florida, which has one of the country's most generous agricultural classifications.

Nelson's situation is legal but nonetheless cuts to a long-running debate over Florida's "greenbelt" law, originally intended to give farmers a break as the state modernized.

Full story here.

PHOTO: The property with five of the lots that were sold. A sixth is currently for sale for about $540,000.

nelsonbrevard3.jpg

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 8:45pm]

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