Farmland Protection Program on the Chopping Block

A Wisconsin farmland protection program is in financial limbo after Governor Scott Walker stripped its funding and recommended that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection evaluate its continued existence.

Farmland protection programs have been initiated in dozens of states across the country. As urban populations have expanded over the last several decades (both in raw numbers and in physical size), they have begun displacing farmland. Suburban expansion and highway construction have, thanks to eminent domain laws, cut across fields and overrun thousands of acres of valuable, fertile land.

In Wisconsin, a state program known as Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) was set up to prevent this sort of suburban development. The program enabled farmers to sell development rights to the state in the form of a non-development land trust. The farmers retained control and ownership of the land, but they, and future owners, would be prevented from building on said land or using it for non-agricultural purposes.

As part of his efforts to cut state spending in Wisconsin, however, Governor Scott Walker asked the legislature to strip all funding for PACE from the 2012 budget. While the state legislature managed to find emergency funds to keep PACE operational through 2012, there are no plans to fund it into the future and it appears likely that the program will be phased out in 2013.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer