Cutbacks will slow farmland preservation
JANESVILLE--Rock County’s new farmland preservation program would go on without financial support from the state but probably at a slower pace, a county official said.
Gov. Scott Walker’s version of the biennial state budget, which he introduced March 1, would kill the state’s Working Lands Initiative, which supports the purchase of agricultural conservation easements.
The state program provides money to the county PACE program. Generally, the state covers about one-quarter of the cost of each project. Federal money pays for half. Local or private money makes up the rest, said Tom Sweeney, director of the Rock County Land Conservation Department.
The Rock County program will continue, Sweeney said, but the loss of state money could slow its progress.
The Rock County Board in January approved the county’s first PACE program.
The program allows the county to pay landowners for the value of their land. The land is not sold but is put into a permanent easement that prevents development. PACE could give a choice to some landowners who don’t want to sell their properties to developers but do want to realize the full value of their land.
Farmland typically brings a higher price when it is sold for development than when it is sold for continued farming.
The county board Thursday unanimously approved a resolution opposing Walker’s plan to eliminate the state program. PACE enhances quality of life in Rock County, supports the county’s agricultural economy and preserves its rural character, the resolution states.
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