Oppose efforts to weaken "Use Value" law as it relates to farms

Will "oppose any efforts to weaken Wisconsin’s 'Use Value' law that has kept property taxes on farms in check and helped family farms stay in business."

Subjects: Agriculture


No efforts to weaken have emerged, and Walker has remained consistent

In 1995, lawmakers in Madison led an effort to give property tax relief to farmers by changing the way agricultural land is assessed for tax purposes. The law was also intended to reduce urban sprawl by keeping land in active agricultural use rather than being developed.

A coalition of municipal officials sued, saying the so-called "use value assessment" method placed an unfair burden on urban taxpayers, according to a 2010 report from the state Legislative Audit Bureau.

Courts eventually upheld the law, which reduced assessments by basing them on the land's ability to produce farm income instead of on its full market value, which is the estimated sales price.

The result, according to state statistics cited by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation: The number of acres of farmland diverted to other uses has fallen steadily since 2000.

In the 2010 campaign, Gov. Scott Walker promised to "oppose any efforts to weaken Wisconsin's 'Use Value' law that has kept property taxes on farms in check and helped family farms stay in business."

Over the years, critics have contended that a loophole in the law has allowed non-farmers to get an unintended tax break by planting crops on land they intend to use for development.

That and other concerns have led to occasional attempts to tighten up the law -- efforts that members of both major parties have opposed.

Walker's promise has not been actively tested during his two-plus years in the governor's chair. No legislative moves have tried to weaken the use value law.

At the same time, Walker has continued to publicly declare his support for the law and has taken no actions that supporters of the law have interpreted as weakening it, said Paul Zimmerman, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

Walker's Department of Revenue is updating an administrative rule on use value assessments, but has done nothing to cause the farm lobby concern, Zimmerman said.

We think Walker's consistent stance rates a Promise Kept, subject to change if the governor unexpectedly alters his position.


Interview with Tom Evenson, Gov. Walker's press secretary, Oct. 24, 2013

Interview with Paul Zimmerman, executive director of governmental relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Oct. 29, 2013

Legislative Audit Bureau, Letter Report, "Use Value Assessment of Agricultural Land," July 2010