Benton County’s tax coffers will stay the same after a $209 million land sale to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
County Agricultural Supervisor Rikki Davis said Farmland Reserve Inc., the investment arm of the LDS church, will continue to pay the same taxes that Easterday Farms paid.
Farmland Reserve bought the 21,234 acres at auction, after Easterday Farms declared bankruptcy amid the “ghost cows” scandal that wiped out the longtime ag operation.
President Cody Easterday defrauded Tyson Foods of more than $200 million over several years to cover bad bets on commodity futures.
The proceeds from the Benton County land auction go toward covering the debt to Tyson Foods.
Farmland Reserve already owns hundreds of acres near the Easterday Farms land, in an area that lies along the Columbia River between the McNary Dam and the Wallula Gap.
Churches don’t pay property taxes on church property, but they do pay taxes on property that is not used for religious or educational purposes, such as commercially farmed land.
Davis said a state program for current-use farmland has a discounted tax rate that depends on the value of the use. Farmland Reserve and Easterday Farms paid Benton County taxes under the program.
Farmland Reserve pays $7,834 each year for one parcel of 575 irrigated acres and 73 acres of rangeland, which has a market value of $4,292,850.
Easterday paid $6,513 for one parcel of 454 acres of irrigated farmland, 123 acres of dry farmland and 64 acres of rangeland that had a market value of $3,629,770.
Davis said, “A couple of Easterday parcels were not included in the state discount program, and the new owners could apply for that.”