Yesterday, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau put out a press release calling for use value assessment to be left as it is. You can read the release here, but for your benefit, I thought I would translate some of the political spin into easy to understand language that any property owner can understand:
The use value assessment of farmland law should not be tampered with because it is accomplishing exactly what it intended to do: insure that farmers never have to pay property taxes on their land, and ease the loss of farmland, according to Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation president, Bill Bruins, who recently spoke at the Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative task force meeting.
Bruins addressed the Working Lands Initiative task force because the group had been discussing the policy that has cost Wisconsin's homeowners and businesses approximately $1.8 billion since its implementation in 1995. Specifically the task force suggested requiring conservation compliance in order to be eligible for use value assessment, a clear violation of the state’s uniformity clause.
“The Farm Bureau opposes any alteration of use value that could jeopardize the future of our enormous business subsidy. Use value assessment is the most important thing the state of Wisconsin has done in the last 50 years to make Wisconsin agriculture one of the largest welfare recipients in the state,” said Bruins.
“Use value not only stopped property taxes from being unfairly shifted to farmland, but it helped residential property taxes to skyrocket,” said Bruins.
Bruins said prior to the use value assessment law, farmland was unfairly being taxed at the value of farmland sold for development, and a change was necessary since federal law precludes farmers from actually paying face value for anything.
Since use value assessment was implemented, the rate of land converted from ag use to non-ag use slowed considerably. In 1993, 90,971 acres of land was converted to a more economically desirable use; by 2004 this loss was down to 44,403 acres, according to the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service.
“If farmers were being assessed at market value, assessments in many parts of the state would be $3,000 to $5,000 per acre resulting in corresponding property taxes of $60 to $100 per acre. Use value has resulted in higher taxes for homeowners and less land being lost because of inequitable tax pressures,” according to Bill Bruins.