The number of acres of farmland lost in Wisconsin continues to decrease due in large part to the state’s use-value assessment law says the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

A total of 6,702 acres of farmland were diverted to other uses in 2009 according to the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service. The number of acres lost was as high as 90,971 acres in 1993, and remained over 60,000 throughout the rest of the 1990s.

It was 2000 when the use-value law was fully implemented that the rapid loss of farmland slowed. For decades, taxes where shifted to farmland under a market value system that assessed values on potential development rather than the realities of growing crops and raising livestock.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau had always maintained that farmers needed fairness in the way farmland was taxed. In 1995 the Farm Bureau successfully lobbied to change the law so farmland is taxed based on its current use rather than potential.

The decline in the amount of Wisconsin farmland diverted to other uses has been dramatic:

* 44,403 acres in 2004.

* 33,808 acres in 2005.

* 23,969 acres in 2006.

* 15,228 acres in 2007.

* 8,666 acres in 2008.

* 6,702 acres in 2009.

This equitable tax structure helps preserve farmland, says Paul Zimmerman, executive director of Public Affairs for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. “Farmland is part of the infrastructure needed to maintain our $59 billion agricultural industry, as one in 10 jobs in Wisconsin is tied to production and processing of agricultural commodities.

“Use-value assessment helps keep our farms viable and that benefits Wisconsin’s overall economy,” Zimmerman adds. “The use value law continues to be the single most important thing the state has done to preserve farmland and ensure a healthy ag economy. While state government cannot control the world economy or the weather, it did create a property tax structure that keeps Wisconsin farm families competitive with their colleagues from other states and nations.”

“The Farm Bureau is pleased that Scott Walker has indicated his long-standing support for the use value law will continue as governor,” he notes.

Wisconsin farm families are saving approximately $600 million annually as a result of the use value assessment law. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue the assessed value of farmland will decrease by 3.58 percent in 2011.

“The use value law remains the best tool we have to keep farmland in production rather than being sold off to recreational or developmental pressure,” Zimmerman explains. “At about $3.50 an acre, the property taxes on farmland still generate more than the cost of police, fire and road services they require.”