Farmers around the state are scrambling today in an effort to reverse Senate action on Use Value Assessment of their land.

Casey Langan of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says they were surprised by the 11th hour change that appeared in the Senate budget bill.

Use Value Assessment went into affect in 2000 in an effort to stem the loss of farmland around the state.

"For a long time, Wisconsin taxed its farmland to its highest and best use," Langan says, "so, we were taxing farmland like a potential Wal-Mart."

High taxes led to a massive loss of farmland. "It's no surprise we were losing farm land at an alarming rate. In 1993, we lost over 90,00 acres of farmland," Langan notes.

Use Value Assessment ensures farmland is taxed based on its farm use.

But, the Senate budget proposal would change that for many—if not most—farmers.

"It changes the definition of ag land for property tax purposes…to exclude any land that is platted or zoned for rural, residential, commercial or industrial use. This catches a lot of land," he claims.

Langan says the state has no idea how much land would be affected, but it would be anything zoned "rural residential."

The affect on individual farmers could be chilling. Langan sites one Brown Co. farmer.

"His property taxes would go from $3.50 per acre to roughly $85 per acre. That would be, overnight, a $60,000 increase in his property taxes," Langan says.

"That comes to a 2,300% increase in property taxes–the largest we've ever seen in the state."

Langan says farm groups are encouraging their members, and anyone interested in preserving farmland, to contact their representatives and the Governor's Office immediately and request this provision be left out of the final budget bill.

Legislators have said they want to get the bill to Gov. Doyle's desk by the end of the week.

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