Walker's budget proposals require approval from the Assembly and Senate.
"Obviously, it's the Legislature's turn now to deal with the budget, and we don't know what that outcome will be," Lyon said.
Bill Berry, a spokesman for American Farmland Trust, said there is broad support for the preservation program. He said his organization and the Madison-based Gathering Waters Conservancy, which has worked on farmland preservation, are encouraging people to tell the governor and lawmakers to save PACE.
The Tall Pines Conservancy, which helped to create the ag enterprise zone in Dodge and Waukesha counties, also is trying to save PACE.
"The program helps make it possible to keep the next generation of innovators in the industry here in Wisconsin by providing an alternative to selling the farm when retirement comes. It also has the potential to help keep large areas of farmland intact so farming can have continued economic viability, and in fact grow," said Susan Buchanan, the Nashotah-based Tall Pines executive director.
Program adds to debt
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said programs that add to the state's debt have to be cut.
"In an effort to balance Wisconsin's budget and get our state working again, the 2011-'13 budget proposal makes a number of changes to programs that rely on borrowing," he said.
Said Berry, "We just hate to see a really good program, one with a lot of promise, eliminated without even an opportunity to show how well it works."
"All the tools we had to date to deal with farmland preservation, prior to the Working Lands Initiative, didn't stop an inexorable incursion of development into rural Wisconsin and into some of the best farmland," Berry said.
When the economy gets rolling again, Berry said, the loss of farmland probably will return.
Across the state, there are 78,000 farms and about 16 million acres being farmed, down from 110,000 farms and 20.1 million acres in 1970, according to the latest figures from the agriculture department.
Lyon, the deputy agriculture secretary, said other portions of the Working Lands Initiative remain in place, including working with counties on zoning to preserve farmland and income tax credits for farmers who agree to keep their land in farm production.
"Currently in the governor's budget, the meat and potatoes of farmland preservation are still there. . . . Quite honestly, if we do those kinds of things, we'll preserve more farmland than through a PACE program," Lyon said.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.