Feb 10, 2011
Proposed Bill Would Kill PACE, Conversion Fees
Those are stark words, but they're true. A bill (LRB-1135/2) being circulated for co-sponsors by state Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue, seeks to eliminate both the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement program and the conversion fee for having land rezoned out of a farmland preservation zoning district.
Both are key sections of the Working Lands Initiative passed by the Legislature in 2009. They were championed by the late Rod Nilsestuen, who was secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
We are monitoring this bill and plan to mount robust opposition. What can you do right now?
1. Contact your legislators and tell them NOT to sign on as sponsors to LRB-1135/2.
2. Inform them that a broad coalition of rural interests plans to fight this effort to dismantle farmland protection in Wisconsin.
A few facts:
PACE is a voluntary program and a key tool in efforts to protect strategically targeted Wisconsin farmland. It is currently funded by state bonding.
Conversion fees are intended to help fund the program in the future. Most of the opposition to the conversion fee comes from developers and Realtors, not farmers or farm groups. Conversion fees are not new. There has always been a fee associated with rezoning land out of exclusive ag zoning.
Conversion to other uses has taken a huge toll on Wisconsin's best farmland. The state ranks 10th in the nation in prime farmland converted to other uses between 1982-07 (288,000 acres) and 4th in the nation from the years 2002-07. In the years 1982-2007, Wisconsin lost 520,500 acres of agricultural land converted to other uses. (USDA NRCS Natural Resources Inventory)
PACE programs are effective tools to help protect prime farmland, and studies show that they in no way inhibit development in states where they are in place. (American Farmland Trust)