Wisconsin’s first 12 Agricultural Enterprise Areas will soon be a reality. What’s an agricultural enterprise area? Jane Larson is with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “It’s a contiguous land area that’s devoted primarily to agricultural use,” explains Larson. “These blocks of land are targeted for agricultural preservation and agricultural development, by the local communities where they’re located.”
Farmers within designated AEAs will be eligible to enter into voluntary farmland preservation agreements. “We’re not imposing land use restrictions, but I think the most important part is it’s the local communities that come together,” says Larson. “They determine what’s best for them in their area.”
There are 12 AEAs covering some 200,000 acres recommended for designation in the first round of the program, in which participating farmers will collect farmland preservation tax credits. “They’re all very different,” says Larson. “Some of them have traditional agriculture, some of them involve a lot of community supported agriculture. There’s some organic farms, traditional dairy. The Antigo Flats is a large potato and vegetable production area. Each of them has seized on their uniqueness.”
DATCP, which has the authority through administrative rule to designate up to one million acres as AEAs, will soon release a second request for petitions to join the program.