Welcome to the Portage County Farmland Preservation blog. We as Planning and Zoning staff are excited to begin working with you and our steering committee on drafting the updated Farmland Preservation Plan for Portage County. This memo will serve to set the stage for the planning project, introduce you to the concept of farmland preservation and the Wisconsin Working Lands Imitative, clarifying the Committee’s role, and establishing a realistic time frame for completing the project. Again, thank you for your interest and dedication to this important process.
What is Farmland Preservation and Why are We Talking about it?
Farmland Preservation has been a mandated State program dating back to the 1980’s. In fact, Portage County’s first, and only, Farmland Preservation Plan (FPP) was adopted in 1985. In 2009 the State of Wisconsin created the Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative, essentially overhauling the Farmland Preservation Program. In order for landowners to take advantage of the Program’s tax credit incentive, the County must first update its FPP in compliance with the Working Lands legislation (Section 91.10(1) Wis. Stats). Wisconsin Statutes requires the Portage County FPP to be adopted by the County Board of Supervisors by December 31, 2015.
Portage County Farmland Preservation Ad-Hoc Steering Committee
In April of 2013, the Portage County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution creating an ad-hoc committee to the County’s Planning and Zoning Committee charged with assisting in the development of the County’s Farmland Preservation Plan. Supervisors expressed the need to fill this Committee with individuals representing various interests and/or areas of expertise in agriculture and local municipal issues. The Committee is to include: producers (from different size operations), processors, transporters, suppliers, implement dealers, citizens, local municipalities, agriculture organizations, finance, and real estate representatives. Ads were posted, calls were made, and here you are.
What Sort of Work will This Committee be Doing?
The purpose of the Farmland Preservation Plan is to identify the state of agriculture in the County and the type of policies and actions the County will take to protect and encourage it. The requirements for the Plan are outlined in Section 91.10(1) of Wisconsin Statutes (see attached). While working with Planning and Zoning staff, the Committee will be:
- Identifying agricultural resources, infrastructure, trends, land use issues and future needs
- Developing goals and objectives for agricultural development in the County
- Identifying key issues and opportunities for farmland preservation, including a set of objective criteria for mapping ‘Farmland Preservation Areas’
- Drafting recommendations for the preservation of farmland and the promotion of agriculture-related economic development
- Creating an initial, complete draft text and maps for the County Farmland Preservation Plan
The typical meeting will last a maximum of 2 hours, during which Committee members will discuss the different topics listed in the Statute, and any other ag-related topics that you as members decide are important to include. Guest speakers may be brought in to provide additional information on selected topics. Planning and Zoning Department staff will assist with each meeting, coordinating meeting agendas with the member selected at our first meeting to be Chair of the Committee, providing professional advice when questions come up during the discussion, and doing the actual drafting of the Plan text, based on the results of the Committee’s discussion. Official minutes of the meetings will be recorded by Planning and Zoning staff for review and approval by the Committee at the next meeting.
Each meeting will focus on select topics, with materials to support the discussion being generated by County staff and mailed to Committee members in advance of the meeting. Committee members are encouraged to openly participate in the discussions; you were selected for this Committee based on your knowledge, experience, and expertise – please share it! And please feel comfortable in providing input at any time throughout the process. This Plan will only be as useful and complete as you help make it.
This Committee will ultimately recommend the initial draft of the Farmland Preservation Plan to the County Planning and Zoning Committee for their review and action. The Planning and Zoning Committee will then recommend the Plan to the full County Board for adoption.
What is the Project Timeline?
As previously mentioned, the Farmland Preservation Plan must be adopted by the Portage County Board of Supervisors by the end of December, 2015. The Ad-Hoc Steering Committee will need to complete its work on the Plan document between January and September. Knowing many Committee participants are active in the agricultural community, we intend to have the bulk of the Committee’s work completed by holding a series of meetings, one roughly every three weeks through the middle of March, to avoid running into field work season. Staff will be asking for your availability between March and September at next week’s meeting.
We hope this information will make this process a bit less of a mystery. Please feel free to ask any questions along the way or contact Planning Staff for more information or answer questions.