Valuing Ag Land in Nebraska

Nebraska is unique among Midwest States in that it uses the Classified Use method for valuing agriculture land. Classified Use relies on how the land is used, or “land use,” along with the underlying soil type to determine the market value of each agricultural parcel. In the State of Nebraska, agricultural land is then assessed at 75% of its market value. Many other Midwest states use a version of the Income Use method, which values agricultural land based on the amount of income the landowner can expect to earn on the soil make-up of that land.

Land uses are designated classifications of how the individual pieces of land in a parcel are being used, such as irrigated, grass, dry land, or waste. Assessors use spatial analysis to identify where the various land use and soils are for each agricultural parcel. While soil classifications are provided by the federal government and are never modified by Assessors, land use may be modified based on how the land is actually used.

All soil types in a county are grouped into Land Capability Groups (“LCGs”) based on their limitations for field crops; an LCG is determined for each kind of soil and its land use classification. Assessors assign a per acre value to each LCG based on market areas for that year. These prices are typically based on comparable qualified sales from that market area. Any time that a land use changes, such as when a pivot installed and dry land becomes irrigated land, the LCG will change causing the market value of that parcel to also change.

The Classified Use method means it’s critical that Assessors accurately track land use classifications for each rural parcel in the county. GIS is an invaluable tool for tracking, measuring, and updating land use. Using GIS, County Assessors are able to create a spatial layer that contains the various land use classifications for each parcel so that it may be overlaid with the soils to determine LCG and ultimately that parcel’s valuation. While the actual dollar per acre value assigned to each LCG may change depending on the market, knowing the exact acreage of each LCG and land use is imperative to an accurate valuation.

Because valuing land in this way can be complicated and time-intensive, gWorks has created a simple tool that allows Assessors to do this spatial analysis accurately within seconds. The Land Use Calculator tool is available for Assessors as either a web-based tool or a tool within ArcGIS Desktop and uses GIS to accurately and simply calculate the acreage for each LCG within a parcel. Prior to implementing GIS and having access to this tool, many Assessors used a very labor-intensive process of “counting dots” to determine the acreage of each land use and soil combination in a parcel. Not only could this process take hours, it was error-prone and subjective – an Assessor could do this process three times and get three different results! For more information on how Assessors can use this tool, read more in Using the gWorks Land Use Calculator Tool.

Or for more information on the Land Use Calculator tool, please feel free to contact us at 402-436-2150 or emailing info@gworks.com.

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