This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." This 300-year-old house is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
Even if a young farmer was found (to work at and take over the Mistress), no one at the state level of government would help develop a farm plan or a plan to transition ownership of the Mistress and her domain. More than 99 percent of the time when I made phone calls, no one answered the phone and no one returned my calls when messages were left.
I've noticed in various advertisements some of the same individuals who don't return phone calls teach classes on topics my telephone inquiries were about. Of course, you have to pay money to take the classes, which explains why the telephone calls are almost never returned. The cost for taking one of the advertised classes is in addition to the time and expense for traveling to and from the class.
The fact there are no extension agents in Massachusetts makes a clear statement about the lack of support for farming. Bare in mind, 70 percent of all farmland is going to change hands over the next 20 years because more than 55 percent of the farmers in this country are well over the age of 50.
Taxes certainly don't encourage anyone to farm. Straight off the top are real-estate taxes. They can take away a quarter or more of a farm's income. Additionally, an excise tax may have to be paid each year on equipment, livestock and possibly the crop itself. Every chicken, every cow, lamb or hog has the potential to be taxed in Massachusetts. Everyone should wonder how much of their food bill represents a tax payment.
If a farmer sells a nonfood item, its price gets kicked up 6.25 percent because of the sales tax. There are places where these costs don't exist which make imported goods cheaper than those grown right here in Massachusetts. Whatever money is left after the payment of real estate and excise taxes is chewed off by state and federal income tax.
A hazard many small farmers could face is brought on by the amount of business they do on a cash basis. This is especially true if goods are sold at a farmers market or roadside farmstand. Cash sales can be the villain. If deposits are over a certain amount, they have to be reported to the Treasury Department. Seizure of the account to which the cash deposit was made is the penalty because of a crime called structuring.
Currency transactions are monitored in order to catch suspected terrorists, money launderers and drug dealers. Depending on the amount of seized money, it might be cheaper to allow the government to keep the money even though you've done nothing wrong. Your legal expenses could be greater than the number of dollars seized because of the crime called structuring. The seized money is free to be spent for any purpose the Justice Department wants. Maybe this is another reason to get out of farming and let the big corporations take everything over with their genetically engineered plants.
Then there are all the benefits a farmer has to pay for out of his own pocket. Life insurance probably isn't affordable. A farmer pays 100 percent of his Social Security tax because he's self-employed. The question is whether the 15 percent tax is calculated on the farmer's gross income or his net income. When you work for someone else, the 15 percent Social Security tax is split between the employer and the employee. If the payment is based on the farmer's net income, his Social Security benefit will be less than peanuts. More than likely, the Social Security payment will be peanut shells. There will be no pension benefits and 100 percent of all health-care costs will come out of the farmer's pocket.
The only option left to take care of old age is to sell the farm to a developer, or lease the farm to someone for current income.