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New tax cut carved out for Canadian billionaire's slaughterhouse in Marion Co.

A proposal to give a tax break to slaughterhouses was tacked on to a tax cut meant for fruit growers Thursday, and is basically an incentive for a company looking to plant its stakes (steaks?) in Marion County.

Sen. Thad Altman , R-Viera added an amendment to a bill sponsored by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, that would exempt fruit and veggie growers from paying taxes on the electricity used in packinghouses where the produce is packaged.

The tax cut, approved by a Senate committee, would go to a complex being developed by Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, who has received permits to build a 61,000-square-foot slaughterhouse near Fort McCoy in Marion County.

According to the Ocala Star-Banner, the project would be called Adena Ranches, and its backers say it will bring as many as 150 new jobs to the state. Siplin, who originally asked Altman to postpone his amendment, came back into the committee meeting 30 minutes later with a change of heart, accepting the amendment, and saying it will mean “hundreds” of new jobs.

The House version of the “packinghouse” tax cut, which passed last week as part of Gov. Rick Scott’s $120 million tax plan for businesses, does not include language about meathouses. It is expected to save citrus growers and farmers about $1.1 million a year.

With the new amendment for slaughterhouses, the size of the tax break would grow, although it is unclear how much Stronach will save on electricity taxes under the proposal.

The amount could be significant. Stronach has spent more than $62 million buying up thousands of acres of land in Marion and Levy Counties, and is expected to spend $30 million on the slaughterhouse and a biomass energy plant that will power the 61,000 square-foot facility. All taxes on the electricity produced would be eliminated under the Senate bill.

The incentive is meant to help encourage Florida cattle farmers to keep their cows in-state, rather than shipping them to the Midwest to feed on cheaper corn.

Internet retailer Amazon is seeking a somewhat similar tax cut incentive in exchange for building a couple warehouses in Florida. The company has told lawmakers it will expand into Florida if it is given a 2-year break on sales taxes for purchases made in the state.

Also passing through the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, Thursday:

A tax cut for repair of private planes, a tax cut for tangible personal property owned by small businesses and a tax cut for service rendered by communications companies.


Bonus: While we're on the subject of cattle and tax cuts, check out last week's story about U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who got a huge tax break for a half-dozen bovine pets.