For those farmers looking to stay on their land, "sprawl" is no longer a dirty word. Thanks to a new law effective this month, Wisconsin farmers whose land is near larger cities are receiving relief from the spiraling land valuations and property tax assessments.
Starting this year, Wisconsin farmland will be assessed for its agricultural value rather than its potential value for business or residential development. The law targets farmers near urban areas like Milwaukee and Madison, whose land values are inflated by development pressures. The law is expected to save farmers 35 percent to 40 percent in property taxes, and was recently upheld in appeals court.
The law was passed in 1996 and was slated for gradual implementation over 10 years. However, the state Department of Revenue decided to push the program into full implementation this year, due partly to current farm income problems. A court challenge by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities is expected.
A similar bill in South Dakota that proposed to value and tax land solely for its use as farmland was dropped in November. A controversial provision of the bill would have required repayment of the tax difference if the land were sold to developers for a price higher than its valuation as farmland.