Agriculture reaps new tax refund

Red tape relief for farmers and ranchers is in the mill.

Percentages used to calculate fuel tax refunds have changed for the year 2000, according to the Colorado Farm Bureau. The bureau has worked with the Colorado Motor Carrier Services Division to simplify the process for claiming a refund for off-road fuel used.

"Our goal was to reduce the red tape for farmers and ranchers," said Roger Bill Mitchell, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. "The new process for refunding fuel taxes should be less complicated that the previous method and, in most cases, will not require cumbersome documentation."

The current process creates a huge burden on farmers and ranchers. The division only authorizes a refund for actual gallons used on the farm or ranch. The large volume of fuel used in agriculture, and the constant documentation required has caused an inefficient process for farmers.

A bill was signed into law which allows a percentage of off-road use to be included in the refund calculation.

Under the new process, for a farmer or rancher who has claimed a refund in the past, individual data from the prior 12 months will be used to calculate the new percentage. If the farmer or the rancher feels the new percentage is different from the one they have claimed for the past year, the division will allow 12 months of new documentation to determine a revised percentage. This more closely determines the percentage actually used so the farmers and ranchers are not underpaid or overpaid.

If a farmer or rancher has never claimed a refund, the division will assign an industry standard percentage to the new applicant.

The division recently sent a letter to current exempt fuel claimants requesting a new refund permit application be filled out. This information will be used to calculate the new industry-specific percentages. There are seven agriculture categories from which to choose the primary business. These include crops grains, farm/ranch livestock grazing operations, commercial nursery and horticulture operations and forestry and logging operations.

Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to fill out the new applications. The division needs the information to establish the most accurate percentages possible.

Wheat production

Winter wheat production in Colorado remains forecast at 70.5 million bushels according to the Colorado Agricultural Statistics Service. This is 32 percent below the 1999 crop. Growers estimated 2.35 million acres with an average yield of 30 bushels.

Colorado farmers and ranchers expect to harvest 870,000 acres of alfalfa this year, down 30,000 acres from last year. They also expect to harvest 680,000 acres of other hay in 2000, up 60,000 acres from 1999.

Alfalfa production is forecast at nearly 3.13 million tons and other hay is estimated at 1.16 million tons, down eight percent and down two percent from a year ago, respectively.

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