(This Resolution regarding wetlands protection on farms appeared on the printed ballot at the 2006 statewide Wisconsin Conservation Congress meeting and was approved 3345 to 674. The article hyperlinked in the preceding sentence provides more information.)
Voluntary conservation practices on Wisconsin’s farms have greatly improved wildlife habitat, water quality, and soil conservation, at no cost to taxpayers. Taxes on agricultural land are controlled by use value assessment (Tax 18), but only lands restored through the Conservation Reserve Program or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, etc. retain agricultural classification. Lands restored voluntarily, without subsidies, or through other enrollment programs (e.g., WRP or USFWS programs) are subject to reclassification and, in many cases, consequent tax increases. What is worse, portions of existing farms that have already been restored cannot be subsequently enrolled in programs that qualify for agricultural tax treatment under Tax 18. Retention of these voluntary conservation practices is thus discouraged by the resulting higher tax. Per acre taxes on voluntarily established conservation practices has already risen on some farms to twenty five times the use-value tax.
The restoration and preservation of wetlands and riparian buffer strips on farms is consistent with goals of the WDNR, and numerous federal and state programs, and improves wildlife habitat, water quality, and soil conservation on Wisconsin farms. Farm owners who did the right thing before government established programs to encourage it, or who did the right thing without applying for government subsidies, should not be punished by unfair taxation for doing so. State property tax policies should treat voluntarily protected wetlands and buffer strips on farms the same as those that receive annual subsidies. Alternatively, already established farmland conservation practices on and adjacent to wetlands and streams should be permitted to enroll in a program that does qualify for farm use-value tax assessment.
Do you support that the Department of Natural Resources endorse, and request the Legislature and the Departments of Revenue and Agriculture undertake, a review of property taxes on farm conservation lands to identify and implement sensible and fair solutions to these concerns?
Spring, 2006 (See also the essay “Wetlands Conservation on Wisconsin Farms“, which further explains this problem.)