BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
STEVEN E. AND CORALEE OSBORN )
FROM A VALUATION DECISION OF THE ) Docket No. 2006-85
FREMONT COUNTY ASSESSOR )
2005 PROPERTY VALUATION )
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, DECISION AND ORDER
Steven E. and Coralee Osborn (Petitioners or Taxpayers) appearing pro se.
James Whiting, Deputy Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney, on behalf of Eileen
Oakley, Fremont County Assessor (Respondent or Assessor).
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
This matter originally came before the State Board of Equalization (State Board) as an appeal
by the Fremont County Assessor from a decision of the Fremont County Board of
Equalization (County Board). The Assessor appealed the County Board decision directing
her to re-assess the Taxpayers’ property using an agricultural classification. The State Board,
comprised of Alan B. Minier, Chairman, Thomas R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman, and Thomas
D. Roberts, Board Member, considered the hearing record and decision of the County Board.
Neither party requested oral argument. The State Board entered a Decisions and Order dated
July 13, 2006, remanding the Assessor’s appeal to the County Board for further proceedings.
Fremont County Assessor, (Osborn Property), Docket No. 2005-82, July 13, 2006, ___ WL
_____, (Wyo. St. Bd. Eq.). In response, on August 14, 2006, the County Board requested,
pursuant to Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 2, § 36, that the original
appeal by Taxpayers of the Assessor’s denial of their request for agricultural status be
certified to the State Board for its consideration as the finder of fact rather than as an
intermediate level of appellate review. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). Compare Rules,
Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 2 and Rules, Wyoming State Board of
Equalization, Chapter 3. Laramie County Board of Equalization v. Wyoming State Board
of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188 (Wyo. 1996); Union Pacific Railroad Company v.
Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 802 P.2d 856, 859 (Wyo. 1990). The State Board
granted certification by order dated August 24, 2006. The appeal of the Taxpayers from the
Assessor’s agricultural status denial is thus before this Board the same as an initial appeal
pursuant to Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 2.
The State Board has reviewed and carefully considered all the evidence presented at the
County Board hearing, including a tape recording of the testimony. There was no issue of
credibility of the witnesses with respect to the matters which dispose of this case, thus a
repeat of their testimony to this Board is not necessary. We have also been provided, in the
context of the Assessor’s original appeal to this Board, sufficient briefing on the relevant
issues, thus the receipt of further briefing is not required.
Within 30 days after the date or postmark date of an assessment schedule, whichever is later,
objections to local assessments must be filed with the county assessor indicating why the
assessment is incorrect. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §39-13-109(b)(i). The Taxpayers’ assessment
schedule was dated April 25, 2005. Taxpayers’ protest was filed with the County Assessor
on May 5, 2005. The Assessor’s denial of agricultural status was dated May 18, 2005. The
Taxpayers’ appeal is timely.
CONTENTIONS AND ISSUES
Taxpayers assert the County Assessor improperly denied agricultural valuation in 2005 for
their property. We affirm the Assessor’s denial of agricultural status.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Steven E. and Coralee Osborn own and reside on 18.36 acres at 39 O’Brien Road
north of Lander, Wyoming. The property was formerly known as Lot 6 of the O’Brien
Subdivision in Fremont County, Wyoming. [Board Record, Exhibit B, p. 13].
2. Eileen Oakley is the Fremont County Assessor. [Hearing Tape].
3. On April 25, 2005, the Assessor sent Taxpayers an Assessment Schedule listing the
total market value of their property at $291,400. Of this total, $130,100 was for the
Taxpayers’ land which is the value at issue in this proceeding. [Board Record, Exhibit A,
4. Steven and Coralee Osborn applied for agricultural classification for their property
on May 5, 2005. [Board Record, Exhibit P, pp. 72-73].
5. The Taxpayers also filed a Statement To Contest 2005 Property Tax Assessment on
May 5, 2005, stating the assessment was incorrect for the following reasons:
Not part of a subdivision.
Produce grasses for forage.
Revenues over $500.00 per year.
[Board Record, Exhibit 1, pp. 89-90].
6. On May 18, 2005, the Assessor denied Taxpayers’ application for agricultural
classification stating the information furnished did not meet the definition for agricultural
land as set forth in the Wyoming statutes and rules. The Assessor gave five reasons for the
Property has characteristics of a subdivision or is in transition for further
Primary purpose or use of the land is other than producing a marketable
agricultural product, i.e. home site, cabin site, or dude ranch facilities.
Activities on the land, which appear agricultural in nature, do not by
themselves qualify the land for agricultural assessment.
The land is not being used or employed, consistent with the land’s size,
location and capability to produce.
The owner/lessee does not report or pay taxes on farm machinery or other
[Board Record, Exhibit P, p. 71].
7. The denial letter stated the Taxpayers could provide additional information to the
Assessor’s office which may affect the classification. The Taxpayers were advised if they
disagreed with the Assessor’s decision, they could file a protest with the County Board
within 30 days of the assessment notice. [Board Record, Exhibit P, p. 71].
8. Mr. Osborn testified he was protesting the denial of agricultural classification for their
land under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103. Only the classification of their land was being
protested. The Taxpayers offered a description of their property as: “I have hobby horses and
don’t refer to it as a ranch, just a nice place in the country.” [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
9. The Taxpayers provided a $760 receipt from the sale of hay signed by the purchaser,
Dick Ellis, and the Taxpayers’ Federal Income Tax Form 1040, Schedule F, both establishing
$760 gross income. [Board Record, Exhibit P, p. 74; Exhibit 1, p. 87]. The Taxpayers felt
they met the letter of the law by having receipts for over $500. [Board Record, Hearing
Tape]. Mr. Osborn indicated there was a second cutting of hay which was used to feed his
horses through the winter. He estimated his total hay production at 25 tons. [Board Record,
10. Mr. Osborn testified the 17 tons of hay they sold were grown on seven acres. Using
the Assessor’s map in Exhibit C, the Taxpayers showed that Coon Creek crossed through his
property, pointing out only seven acres on the front of his property raised hay. [Board
Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit C, p. 14A]. Mr. Osborn described the remaining acres along
the creek as a swamp. However, he grazed horses on approximately 10 acres of swampy
land. The Taxpayers objected to being taxed the same for the swamp as for the good
productive land which produced 17 tons of hay. [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
11. Mr. Osborn testified the Taxpayers invested over $5,000 in irrigation pipe during the
last four years so they can irrigate the property to its full potential. [Board Record, Hearing
12. He testified his land was not part of a subdivision. In support of his position, he
presented a quitclaim deed from the Taxpayers to themselves describing their property by
metes and bounds. [Board Record, Exhibit 2, p. 88].
13. The Taxpayers believed they qualified for agricultural classification since their
property was not part of a subdivision, was being used for forage and produced the required
amount of income. [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
14. The Taxpayers were not protesting the valuation of the house or the outbuildings, only
the Assessor’s refusal to grant them agricultural classification. [Board Record, Hearing
15. Eileen Oakley testified she was the Fremont County Assessor and was certified as a
property tax appraiser by the Department of Revenue (Department). [Board Record, Hearing
16. The Assessor presented a complete description of the Taxpayers’ property. [Board
Record, Exhibit R, p. 82]. The market value of the property was not being disputed, only the
17. The Assessor testified that to qualify for agricultural classification a property must
meet the conditions of the statutes and rules which govern agricultural classification. The
statutes outline those conditions and Chapter 10 of the Department’s Rules further define the
conditions. [Board Record, Exhibit I, pp. 39-42].
18. The Assessor asserted that to meet agricultural classification there were four
qualifications, all of which must be met. The initial qualification is that the land be used to
produce forage. There were, however, other qualifiers. The Assessor must consider that
certain activities which appear to be agricultural in nature do not by themselves qualify land
for the agricultural classification. The Assessor must consider all requirements, not just the
appearance of the land. [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
19. The Assessor must consider whether or not the land was part of a platted subdivision.
The Assessor conceded the Board of County Commissioners had vacated the O’Brien
Subdivision but believed the vacation contravened the intent of the statutes on subdivisions.
[Board Record, Hearing Tape].
20. The Assessor testified the parcels in the O’Brien Subdivision were required to be
platted at the time they were formed, and those same parcels would be required to be platted
if they were formed today. [Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit K, p. 44].
21. The Assessor testified the definition of non-agricultural land under the Department’s
Rules, Chapter 10, § 3(c)(ii) states: “[l]and in active transition from agricultural use to
residential, commercial or industrial use, which includes creation or division of a tract, parcel
or other unit of land for the purpose of sale or development for such use” shall be non-agricultural. [Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 41; Exhibit R, p. 83].
22. The Assessor testified the owners of the lots waited until the subdivision was fully
developed to begin the process of vacation. These lots were sold as residential lots and the
original restrictive covenants stated the purpose was to ensure the use of the property for
attractive country living, residential purposes only. The restrictive covenants allowed some
animals but that use was regulated by the Architectural Control Committee. [Board Record,
Exhibit D, p. 15]. The new restrictive covenants changed the wording minimally and added
the word agricultural to the use, but the Architectural Control Committee still controlled the
use of the land. [Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit F, p. 27; Exhibit R, p. 83].
23. The Assessor testified the third qualification she must consider was whether the owner
of the land had derived annual gross revenue of not less than $500. The Taxpayers’ IRS
Form 1040 Schedule F, Profit of Loss From Farming showed a gross income of $760.
[Board Record, Exhibit 1, p. 87].
24. The fourth qualification for agricultural status was quoted by the Assessor from the
statute: “[t]he land has been used or employed, consistent with the land’s size, location and
capability to produce as defined by the department rules and the mapping and agricultural
manual published by the department, primarily in the agricultural operation...,” where
primarily means chiefly or of the first importance. The Assessor pointed out the Taxpayers’
own covenants established the land was residential with animals and agricultural use being
limited. Therefore, the Assessor concluded the land’s primary use was residential. The
parcel had significant residential improvements as described in the CAMA printouts. [Board
Record, Exhibit B, p. 13].
25. The Assessor stated she applied the Department’s Rules equally and uniformly to all
the properties which she assessed. Regardless of the fact that people feel they have used the
property as best they can or produced as much as they can, the land had to meet the standards
of a true agricultural operation. [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
26. The Assessor prepared a quantitative analysis to determine whether the Taxpayers had
used their land consistent with the land’s capability to produce. [Board Record, Exhibit R,
pp. 82-86]. She first subtracted two acres from the Taxpayers’ total acreage of 18.36 acres,
in order to account for a residential farmstead as required by the Department’s Rules. Rules,
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(c)(iv). [Board Record, pp. 39-41]. She
then determined a productive capacity for the remaining 16.36 acres using elements of the
methods prescribed by the Department for valuation of all agricultural lands. [Board Record,
Exhibit R, p. 82].
27. The Assessor used the Lander Area Soil Survey to determine the land soil type of the
Taxpayers’ property. [Board Record, Exhibit R, p. 82; Exhibit J, p.43]. She overlaid
ownership information on the soil survey map to do so. [Board Record, Exhibit R, p. 82;
Exhibit J, p. 43; Exhibit K, p. 44].
28. The Assessor determined the productive value of the Taxpayers’ soil type using the
2005 Ag Land Valuation Study authorized by the Department. [Board Record, Exhibit M,
pp. 44-59]. The Assessor determined: (1) the pertinent Land Resource Area, and (2) the
productive class of the land. [Board Record, Exhibit R, p. 82; Exhibit M]. These numbers
were translated into a standard productive range for irrigated crop land, expressed in tons of
hay per acre. [Board Record, Exhibit R, p. 82; Exhibit M, p. 53]. The resulting range of
production for the Taxpayer’s property was from three to four tons per acre. [Board Record,
Exhibit R, p. 82; Exhibit M, p. 53]. Using the chart identified by the Assessor, those values
appear for Land Resource Area 4-5, Class III. [Board Record, Exhibit M, p. 53]
29. Using the lowest production, three tons of hay per acre, and a relatively low hay price
of $70 per ton, the Assessor calculated the Taxpayers’ land could produce $1,700 worth of
hay. [8.1 acres times 3 tons per acre times $70 per ton by calculation]. The Assessor
considered the remaining 8.26 acres to be good grazing land which should produce another
$200 of income. The land should be used consistent with its capability to produce. The
Assessor’s office uses two acres for farmstead for all agricultural properties in Fremont
County. [Board Record, Hearing Tape].
30. The Assessor testified a portion of the production from the Taxpayers’ parcel
appeared to have been used by horses kept as a hobby. Chapter 10, Section 3(ii)(B)(II), of
the Department’s Rules states: “grazing on land by any animal kept as a hobby will not be
considered agricultural....” When hobby animals use part of the production, marketable
production falls below the land’s capability to produce, and it is not agricultural. [Board
Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 40; Exhibit R, p. 85].
31. The Assessor reviewed the records of other small acreage parcels. She testified only
five parcels between 5 and 20 acres in size had an agricultural value. There were 247 other
small acreage parcels valued as residential. She stated her office was receiving more and
more applications for agricultural classification which are considered at the time of
application. The Assessor’s office had consistently and uniformly valued these small parcels
as residential. [Board Record, Exhibit N, pp. 62-63; Exhibit O, pp. 64-70].
32. In conclusion, the Assessor argued that while the Taxpayers’ parcel had activities
which appear to be agricultural, they did not meet all of the requirements for agricultural
classification. The land was originally agricultural, but was divided into parcels, and sold.
The primary use of the property was residential. It was, therefore, correctly valued as
residential land. [Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit R, p. 86, ].
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW: PRINCIPLES OF LAW
33. The Board is required to “[d]ecide all questions that may arise with reference to the
construction of any statute affecting the assessment, levy and collection of taxes, in
accordance with the rules, regulations, orders and instructions prescribed by the department.”
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c)(iv).
34. The Board’s Rules provide:
[T]he Petitioner shall have the burden of going forward and the ultimate
burden of persuasion, which burden shall be met by a preponderance of the
Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 2 § 20.
35. The Board, in interpreting a statute, follows the same guidelines as a court:
We read the text of the statute and pay attention to its internal structure and the
functional relationship between the parts and the whole. We make the
determination as to meaning, that is, whether the statute’s meaning is subject
to varying interpretations. If we determine that the meaning is not subject to
varying interpretations, that may end the exercise, although we may resort to
extrinsic aids to interpretation, such as legislative history if available and rules
of construction, to confirm the determination. On the other hand, if we
determine the meaning is subject to varying interpretations, we must resort to
available extrinsic aids.
General Chemical v. Unemployment Ins. Comm’n, 902 P.2d 716, 718 (Wyo. 1995).
‘Determining the lawmakers’ intent is our primary focus when we interpret
statutes. Initially, we make an inquiry respecting the ordinary and obvious
meaning of the words employed according to their arrangement and
connection. We construe together all parts of the statute in pari materia,
giving effect to each word, clause, and sentence so that no part will be
inoperative or superfluous. We will not construe statutes in a manner which
renders any portion meaningless or produces absurd results.’ In re WJH, 2001
WY 54, ¶ 7, 24 P.3d 1147, ¶ 7 (Wyo. 2001).
TPJ v. State, 2003 WY 49, ¶ 11, 66 P.3d 710, 713 (Wyo. 2003).
36. The Board considers the omission of certain words intentional on the part of the
Legislature, and we may not add omitted words. “[O]mission of words from a statute is
considered to be an intentional act by the legislature, and this court will not read words into
a statute when the legislature has chosen not to include them.” BP America Production Co.
v. Department of Revenue, 2005 WY 60 ¶ 22, 112 P.3d 596, 607 (Wyo. 2005), quoting
Merrill v. Jansma, 2004 WY 26, ¶ 29, 86 P.3d 270, 285 (Wyo. 2004). See also Parker v.
Artery, 889 P.2d 520 (Wyo. 1995); Fullmer v. Wyoming Employment Security Comm’n., 858
P.2d 1122 (Wyo. 1993). The language which appears in one section of a statute but not
another, will not be read into the section where it is absent. Matter of Adoption of Voss, 550
P.2d 481 (Wyo. 1976).
37. It is an elementary rule of statutory interpretation that all portions of an act must be
read in pari materia, and every word, clause and sentence of it must be considered so that
no part will be inoperative or superfluous. Also applicable is the oft-repeated rule it must be
presumed the Legislature did not intend futile things. Hamlin v. Transcon Lines, 701 P.2d
1139, 1142 (Wyo. 1985).
38. The issue raised by the Taxpayers concerns the Assessor’s denial of agricultural
classification for their land.
39. The Wyoming Constitution, article 15, § 11(b) provides in pertinent part: “[a]ll
taxable property shall be valued at its full value as defined by the legislature except
agricultural and grazing lands which shall be valued according to the capability of the land
to produce agricultural products under normal conditions.”
40. The classification of land as agricultural requires fulfilment of four statutory
(x) The following shall apply to agricultural land:
(A) The department shall determine the taxable value of agricultural
land and prescribe the form of the sworn statement to be used by the property
owner to declare that the property meets the requirements of subparagraph (B)
of this paragraph. In determining the taxable value for assessment purposes
under this paragraph, the value of agricultural land shall be based on the
current use of the land, and the capability of the land to produce agricultural
products, including grazing and forage, based on average yields of lands of the
same classification under normal conditions;
(B) Contiguous or noncontiguous parcels of land under one (1)
operation owned or leased shall qualify for classification as agricultural land
if the land meets each of the following qualifications:
(I) The land is presently being used and employed for an
(II) The land is not part of a platted subdivision;
(III) If the land is not leased land, the owner of the land
has derived annual gross revenues of not less than five hundred
dollars ($500.00) from the marketing of agricultural products, or
if the land is leased land the lessee has derived annual gross
revenues of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) from
the marketing of agricultural products; and
(IV) The land has been used or employed, consistent with
the land's size, location and capability to produce as defined by
department rules and the mapping and agricultural manual
published by the department, primarily in an agricultural
operation, or the land does not meet this requirement and the
requirement of subdivision (III) of this subparagraph because
(1) Experiences an intervening cause of
production failure beyond its control;
(2) Causes a marketing delay for economic
(3) Participates in a bona fide conservation
program, in which case proof by an affidavit showing
qualification in a previous year shall suffice; or
(4) Has planted a crop that will not yield an
income in the tax year.
(C)If needed, the county assessor may require the producer to
provide a sworn affidavit affirming that the land meets the requirements of this
paragraph. When deemed necessary, the county assessor may further require
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-13-103(b)(x) (emphasis added).
41. The Department is required to confer with, advise and give necessary instructions and
directions to the county assessors as to their duties, and to promulgate rules and regulations
necessary for the enforcement of all tax measures. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102(c)(xvi) and
(xix). In particular, except as provided by law for specific property, the Department “shall
prescribe by rule and regulation the appraisal methods and systems for determining fair
market value using generally accepted appraisal standards.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(ii).
42. A county assessor has a corresponding duty to annually value property within the
assessor’s county, and in doing so to “[f]aithfully and diligently follow and apply the orders,
procedures and formulae of the department of revenue or orders of the state board of
equalization for the appraisal and assessment of all taxable property.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 18-3-204(a)(ix).
43. The Department Rules contain a definition of “agricultural land:”
(a) "Agricultural land" means contiguous or noncontiguous parcels of land
presently being used and employed for the primary purpose of providing gross
revenue from agricultural or horticultural use or any combination thereof
unless part of a platted subdivision. Agricultural land shall generally include
land that is actively farmed, ranched or is used to raise timber for timber
products to obtain a fair rate of return.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a).
44. The Department Rules also contain a definition of “non-agricultural lands:”
(c) "Non-agricultural lands" shall include but not be limited to lands as
described in the State of Wyoming market valuation of Residential,
Commercial and Industrial Lands as published by the Department of Revenue,
Ad Valorem Tax Division:
(i) Lands classified within neighborhood boundaries as residential,
commercial, industrial or rural, whether vacant or improved;
(ii) Lands in active transition from agricultural use to residential,
commercial or industrial use, which includes creation or division of a tract,
parcel or other unit of land for the purpose of sale or development for such use.
(iii) Residential subdivision lands developed with either predetermined
floor plans and elevations or custom buildings;
(iv) Farmsteads with lands occupied by buildings which constitute the
homesite including one or more acres of land used in direct connection with
* * *
(x) Parcels of land forty (40) acres or less unless the landowner
provides proof that such land should otherwise be classified as agricultural
(xi) Land zoned for purposes, which exclude agricultural uses.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(c).
45. The Department Rules also provide that certain activities do not qualify land for
(B) The assessor shall also consider that certain activities which appear
to be agricultural in nature do not by themselves qualify land for agricultural
assessment. The activity, by itself, either does not raise the expectation of
monetary incentive consistent with the capability of the land to produce or
occurs after the agricultural product has been raised and harvested.
* * *
(II) Grazing on land by any animal kept as a hobby will not be
considered agricultural unless accompanied by other agricultural activities,
which would produce a monetary incentive and are consistent with the land’s
capability to produce.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a)(ii)(B)(II).
46. Administrative rules have the force and effect of law. Wyo. Dep’t of Revenue v.
Union Pacific Railroad Co., 2003 WY 54, ¶ 18, 67 P.3d 1176, 1184 (Wyo. 2003); Painter
v. Abels, 998 P.2d 931, 939 (Wyo. 2000).
47. With regard to appeals of property tax matters, the Wyoming Supreme Court has
The Department’s valuations for state-assessed property are
presumed valid, accurate, and correct. This presumption can
only be overcome by credible evidence to the contrary. In the
absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that the
officials charged with establishing value exercised honest
judgement in accordance with the applicable rules, regulations,
and other directives that have passed public scrutiny, either
through legislative enactment or agency rule-making, or both.
The petitioner has the initial burden to present sufficient credible
evidence to overcome the presumption, and a mere difference of
opinion as to value is not sufficient. If the petitioner
successfully overcomes the presumption, then the Board is
required to equally weigh the evidence of all parties and
measure it against the appropriate burden of proof. Once the
presumption is successfully overcome, the burden of going
forward shifts to the DOR to defend its valuation. The
petitioner, however, by challenging the valuation, bears the
ultimate burden of persuasion to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the valuation was not derived in accordance
with the required constitutional and statutory requirements for
valuing state-assessed property….
Colorado Interstate Gas Company v. Wyoming Department of
Revenue, 2001 WY 34, ¶¶ 9-11, 20 P.3d 528, ¶¶ 9-11 (Wyo.
2001) (citations omitted).
Airtouch Communications, Inc. v. Dep’t of Revenue, 2003 WY 114, ¶ 12, 76
P.3d 342, 348 (Wyo. 2003).
Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 13, 132
P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006). This presumption applies equally to an assessor’s valuation of
locally assessed property. Id. at 806 n.1.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW - APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES OF LAW
48. We initially note that the Taxpayers have ignored the provision of the Department’s
Rules placing an additional burden on the landowners who seek agricultural classification
for a parcel of forty acres or less. Those landowners must provide proof that a parcel of that
size should be classified agricultural. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10,
§ 3(c)(x). Supra, ¶ 44. This burden applies whether or not the landowner chooses to appeal
an assessor’s determination of agricultural classification.
A. Present Use for Agricultural Purpose
49. The first statutory requirement to qualify for agricultural valuation is the present use
and employment of the land for an agricultural purpose. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(I). “Agricultural purpose” is defined by statute:
“Agricultural purpose,” as used in W.S. 39-13-103(b)(x), means the following
land uses when conducted consistent with the land's capability to produce:
(A) Cultivation of the soil for production of crops; or
(B) Production of timber products or grasses for forage; or
(C) Rearing, feeding, grazing or management of livestock.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-101(a)(viii).
50. In this case, the Taxpayers presented testimony and evidence which indicates they
produced and sold hay in 2004. The production of hay for sale is an agricultural purpose and
meets the requirement of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(I).
51. The Taxpayers keep horses on their land. A significant portion of their hay
production was feed for the horses in the winter, and a portion of the Taxpayers’s property
was used for grazing their horses. This use of the land appears to be a hobby activity. The
Department’s Rules provide that such use is not agricultural unless accompanied by other
agricultural activities. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a)(i)(B)(II);
see Brenda Arnold, Laramie County Assessor (Steel), Docket No. 96-109, June 13, 1997,
1997 WL 345863 (Wyo. St. Bd. Eq.).
B. Not Part of Platted Subdivision
52. The second statutory requirement for agricultural classification is that the land “is not
part of a platted subdivision.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(II). The Department’s
Rules define “platted subdivision” as follows:
Platted subdivision” [sic] means for the purpose of Chapter 13 of Title 39, the
creation of a lot, parcel, or other unit of land; or division of a lot, parcel, or
other unit of land into one or more parts that has received approval from the
governing body in whose jurisdiction the property resides at the time of
creation and is recorded in the records of the county clerk.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(b). We note that neither of the
parties addressed this Department Rule.
53. The exhibits and testimony of record, and the respective briefs provided by the parties,
do not adequately address the interpretation and application of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(II) nor the Department Rule. This lack of discussion and analysis however,
based on our conclusions with regard to the other requirements for agricultural classification,
does not prevent a final decision in this matter. Infra ¶¶ 55-59.
C. Minimum Annual Gross Revenues
54. The third requirement to qualify for agricultural valuation is that the owner establish
the statutory minimum gross revenues were derived from agricultural use of the property.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III). The evidence related to the third requirement
consisted of Taxpayers’ Federal Income Tax Form 1040 Schedule F, Profit or Loss From
Farming, showing a gross income of approximately $760 for Tax Year 2004, and a receipt
showing income of approximately $760 from the sale of hay. This amount exceeded the
minimum income requirements set by the legislature for agricultural valuation, and could be
accepted as meeting the minimum gross revenues requirement set by the legislature for
D. Use Consistent With Size, Location and Capability to Produce Primarily in an
55. The Wyoming Constitution grants favorable treatment to agricultural and grazing
lands by providing that they “shall be valued according to the capability of the land to
produce agricultural products under normal conditions.” Wyo. Const. art. 15 § 11(b). The
statutory definition of agricultural purpose echoes this language, limiting those purposes to
being “consistent with the land’s capability to produce.” Wyo. Stat. Ann § 39-13-101(a)(viii).
Land can only qualify for agricultural classification if it meets a fourth and related statutory
test of being “used or employed, consistent with the land’s size, location and capability to
produce as defined by department rules and the mapping and agricultural manual published
by the department, primarily in an agricultural operation….” Wyo. Stat. Ann § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(IV). The qualifying phrase, “consistent with the land’s capability to produce,”
appears repeatedly in the Department’s Rules. E.g., Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 10, §§ 3(a)(i), 3(a)(ii), 3(a)(ii)(B), 3(a)(ii)(B)(II), 3(a)(ii)(B)(III), 3(a)(ii)(B)(IV).
56. The pertinent definition of “consistent” is “in agreement or harmony; in accord;
compatible.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition (2001), p. 311. The
fourth statutory test for agricultural classification requires use of the land in an actual
agricultural operation, measured generally by the same constitutional standard providing
favorable property tax treatment – the land’s capability to produce. The State Board
concludes the intent of the legislature was to deny agricultural classification to lands
principally employed in other uses, such as residential or being held for future residential
development, yet generating enough agricultural revenue to meet the minimum gross revenue
standards of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III).
57. The statute expressly addresses the problem that “normal conditions” may not prevail
in any given assessment year. Unusual conditions may interfere with a taxpayer’s ability to
use the land consistent with its capability to produce. An agricultural producer may
accordingly be excused from compliance with the fourth requirement for agricultural
classification, and the minimum gross revenue requirement of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III), if it:
(1) Experiences an intervening cause of production failure beyond its control;
(2) Causes a marketing delay for economic advantage;
(3) Participates in a bona fide conservation program, in which case proof by
affidavit showing qualification in a previous year shall suffice; or
(4) Has planted a crop that will not yield an income in the tax year.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(IV); see Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 10, § 3(a)(ii)(A). The Taxpayers in this case offered no evidence to support any
such excuse from compliance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(IV).
58. The Assessor prepared a calculation to quantify her view that the Taxpayers did not
meet this requirement. She first excluded two acres from the Taxpayers’ parcel to account
for their residence, as required by the Department’s Rules and consistent with her practice
for other agricultural land in Fremont County. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 10, § 3(c)(iv). She then calculated a minimum production value of $1,900 for the
remaining acres, $1,700 for hay production and $200 for grazing. Supra, ¶¶ 26,27,28,29.
This calculation is consistent with statutory requirements of the Department’s mapping and
agricultural manual, which we have described in detail in other cases arising from Fremont
County. E.g., Fremont County Assessor (Dechert Property), Docket No. 2004-125, February
4, 2005, 2005 WL 301141 (Wyo. St. Bd. Eq.). Finally, she compared this minimum value
against the income actually reported by the Taxpayers, or approximately $760. Supra, ¶ 9.
Based on this comparison, she concluded the Taxpayers had not employed their land
consistent with its capability to produce. Supra, ¶ 32.
59. The Assessor’s calculation may not be the only approach to determining whether the
use of a particular property is consistent with its capability to produce, but her approach has
obvious virtues. It relies on measurable criteria. The criteria tie to the Assessor’s uniformly
enforced policy concerning the size of the residential portion of agricultural lands in her
county. The criteria also tie to the same measures of productivity that the Department uses
to determine taxable value. They also tie to revenues a taxpayer can readily document.
These objectively verifiable measures should enable a county assessor and a taxpayer to
readily reach a common understanding about whether a taxpayer’s lands qualify for
60. The Taxpayers’ did not address the Assessor’s undisputed and objective measurement
of the degree to which the Taxpayers actually used their land for agricultural purposes.
61. The Taxpayers failed to provide substantial evidence to support their assertion the
primary purpose of the property was agricultural rather than residential. The Taxpayers
offered a description of their property which does not support their assertion: “I have hobby
horses and don’t refer to it as a ranch, just a nice place in the country.” [Board Record,
62. The Taxpayers, in summary, have not fulfilled their burden of proof or ultimate
burden of persuasion that the property in question qualifies for agricultural status.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED the decision of the Fremont County
Assessor denying the Taxpayers’ request for agricultural classification of the property at
issue is affirmed.
Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114 and Rule 12, Wyoming Rules of Appellate
Procedure, any person aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by this decision may seek
judicial review in the appropriate district court by filing a petition for review within 30
days of the date of this decision.
DATED this day of September, 2006.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Alan B. Minier, Chairman
Thomas R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman
Thomas D. Roberts, Board Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary