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Controlled environment agriculture receives boost in tax exemptions

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(The Center Square) – The controlled environment agriculture industry continues to expand in Virginia, with the latest an indoor vertical farm in Prince William County supported by new tax exemptions.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin led Thursday’s celebration of the expansion by signing legislation clarifying “tangible personal property tax exemptions” for the industry.

It was announced that Beanstalk Farms Inc. will expand its operations by building a second indoor farm and distribution facility in Manassas, including a $4.1 million investment from the agriculture company.

Beanstalk Farms expects to produce 2.1 million pounds of “Virginia-grown leafy greens and fresh-cut herbs” yearly. In addition to the investment, Virginia is partnering with the county and company through a $100,000 Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grant.

Youngkin praised the company for investing in the commonwealth, especially Prince William County, and applauded the legislation for supporting the industry.

“Congratulations to Beanstalk Farms for their investment in this community and in Virginia,” said the governor. “I am pleased that the Commonwealth’s pro-business climate and partnerships continue to be a factor in securing and scaling up projects such as this. The legislation I signed today reinforces Virginia’s position as a top state for the controlled environment agriculture industry.”

The legislation stems from House and Senate bills that “clarifies that the existing classification of farm machinery includes CEA machinery, allowing localities to exempt equipment from personal property taxes, or adopt a reduced tax rate.” The exemption currently exists in “traditional agriculture operations,” according to a release from the governor’s office.

In 2023, Youngkin signed legislation providing an agriculture technology sales tax exemption for items used to construct facilities housing CEA.

The Senate bill was patroned by Sen. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg. She says the tax exemption is vital to the success of the industry.

“The tangible personal property tax legislation is a key tool to the success of the controlled environment industry,” said Aird. “My legislation is another step forward and ensures these operations and the equipment they use are treated the same as equipment used in traditional farm operations, further spurring investments in this cutting-edge industry.”

Del. Amy Laufer, D-Keswick, patroned the House bill, which she says will boost Virginia’s agriculture industry and “reduce food insecurity.”

“HB1429’s passage helps to modernize and clarify our tax code, reduce food insecurity, and generate more agricultural business, providing a boost to Virginia’s rural communities whose local economies rely on over 41,000 farms that exist across our Commonwealth,” said the delegate.

Beanstalk Farms Co-Founder and CEO Mike Ross claims the facility will lower costs by 10 times per acre than any other vertical farm. He praised the “innovative” industry as setting “a new benchmark in sustainable agriculture,” underscoring that it is “soil-based” and “pesticide-free.”

“This facility will provide the DC market with the highest quality fresh produce every week of the year – rain or shine. Strategically located with excellent access to the Mid-Atlantic, bolstered by robust infrastructure, Virginia is the definitive choice for our expansion,” Ross added.

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