Mar 10, 2011
Citizens Speak Up For PACE at DATCP Meeting
Farmers and other supporters of farmland protection in Wisconsin are asking the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the board that oversees it to advocate for keeping the state’s Working Lands Initiative intact.
After listening to the comments from farmland protection supporters in Iowa, Jefferson and Waupaca counties, DATCP board members said they are considering a resolution in support of preserving the program.
Eight speakers, including six farmers and a county board chair, addressed the DATCP Board and Secretary Ben Brancel at the board’s meeting Tuesday, March 8. Citizens from Jefferson, Waupaca and Iowa counties supported protecting key elements of the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) program adopted in 2009 as part of the Working Lands Initiative. Speakers made three key points:
- PACE applications already selected and in process should be consummated.
- PACE should be retained, even if funding is limited in this difficult economy.
- The PACE funding source (conversion fees) should be adjusted to address concerns, but not eliminated.
PACE and the conversion fees would be eliminated under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and two bills introduced in the Legislature. Speakers also cited the important economic contributions working lands and agriculture make to the state’s economy and the importance of maintaining the state’s rural character.
PACE supporters said even if funding is tight in this budget cycle, the state should keep its commitments with the PACE applicants who were approved for inclusion in the program in the first two rounds of applications. The governor’s budget and the bills introduced in the Legislature would eliminate the funding source for those applicants.
Speakers included Iowa County dairy farmer Laura Daniels, who said, “I urge you to express your support for the Working Lands Initiative to our elected representatives. They look to you for guidance on issues that affect agriculture and rural Wisconsin.”
Citing concern in her county about conversion fees, she said: “While we might not agree with the specific timelines and details, most agree that we can work these details out, and that elimination of these programs will weaken farmland preservation in Wisconsin…I have heard all of the major stakeholders involved in this topic express the willingness to work together to adjust the program so it is more workable in its application and cost.”