WisBusiness: Ag groups relieved to avoid property tax changes

By Brian Clark

For WisBusiness.com

The state’s agriculture interests are generally satisified with the $62 billion state budget signed into law this week, especially considering some of the proposals that were included in the bill and then removed.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau spokesman Casey Langan said farmers dodged a bullet on a proposed “11th-hour” change that would have greatly increased property taxes for farmers with land near towns and cities.

He said one Brown County dairyman who farms 700 acres north of Green Bay would have seen his tax bill increase from $3.50 to $85 an acre, for an increase of $60,000 annually.

“Fortunately, that was taken out,” he said. “And overall, we did pretty well because a number of damaging things that were considered were eventually eliminated.”

Sue Beitlich, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said the budget was “about as good as could be expected considering the huge shortfalls that are anticipated.

“Clearly, there is nothing that is helping the dairy farmer who is in a world of hurt right now because of low milk prices,” she said. “But most of that needs to be dealt with at the federal level.”

However, she said she wished the Legislature had raised permit fees for CAFOs, confined animal feeding operations that are often called factory farms, which critics say will squeeze out other farmers.

“But we did get more land use planning that we’d been long advocating, purchase of agricultural conservation easements that will help ensure that we will have farmland available into the future for production agriculture.”

She also said she was pleased county conservation offices were not cut and that property taxes were not increased for farmers.

“All in all, we made out OK,” she said.