DATCP Board: Resolution regarding the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement program



WHEREAS Wisconsin annually loses 22,500 acres of farmland converted to developed land; and

WHEREAS Wisconsin was fourth in the nation in prime farmland (the nation’s very best farmland) converted for development from 2002 to 2007 with 61,800 acres; and

WHEREAS Wisconsin’s loss of farmland is certain to accelerate as the economy recovers; and

WHEREAS farmland is crucial to the future viability of the agricultural economy and prosperity of the state of Wisconsin, and when converted, rarely can be returned to productive agricultural use; and

WHEREAS in 2009, the Wisconsin Legislature passed the Working Lands Initiative to address concerns about the loss of farm and forest lands in the state; and

WHEREAS two key components of the Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative are the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) program and the conversion fee collected when land is rezoned out of a farmland preservation zoning district; and

WHEREAS PACE is a voluntary program and a key tool in efforts to protect strategically targeted Wisconsin farmland, support local farmland protection programs, and leverage other public and private funds; and

WHEREAS the PACE program is an effective tool that works in tandem with local planning, to protect prime farmland, while allowing development in areas where it is appropriate,

WHEREAS in its first two years PACE has received 75 applicants, protecting farmland on over 18,600 acres; and

WHEREAS many landowners (and their respective cooperating entity – the town, county or land trust) whose 2010 PACE applications were preliminary approved and are pending have incurred considerable legal, staff, and other expenses; and

WHEREAS conversion fees charged when land is rezoned out of a farmland preservation zoning district help fund the Department’s administration of the farmland preservation program and planning grants to counties, as well as PACE, and are not charged when land changes hands but remains in agricultural use; and

WHEREAS citizens in counties and communities across the state recognize the importance of protecting farmland, and Wisconsin’s Working Lands Initiative enjoys broad-based support and bipartisan leadership throughout the state,

THEREFORE, let it be resolved by the Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection that:

Current proposals to eliminate PACE and farmland protection conversion fees should be removed from the state budget bill, AB 40, to better facilitate public dialogue and, if necessary, negotiation and compromises on issues of concern; and that

PACE applications already selected from the first round of 2010 PACE application should be consummated in full and contracts honored; and sufficient bond or other revenue should be set aside to accomplish this purpose, and that

The statutory authority for the PACE program should be retained in full as passed in 2009, even if funding is reduced from current levels in the Fiscal Year 2011-13 biennium due to state budget constraints; and that

In counties that have not updated their farmland preservation plan, the conversion fees charged when land is rezoned out of a farmland preservation zoning district should not be charged until the counties pass such a plan, provided that the plan is passed within the normal time period for such passage as outlined in statute; and that

Discussions should be initiated by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection with local authorities and others concerned about ways to simplify, streamline, and better communicate about the system for assessing conversion fees, but the fees should not be eliminated.

Approved by a majority vote of the members of the Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection on March 18, 2011.


Andy Diercks