Now is the time for local governments and farmers interested in protecting their agricultural land base and strengthening their rural economy to apply for the 2012 Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA) designation. Receiving designation as an AEA can encourage additional investment in the local economy, create a sense of certainty about the future of agriculture in the community and enable farmers to claim an income tax credit for eligible land.
"Establishment of AEAs is an approach to create an area of land that not only supports agricultural production, but that also supports agricultural service and processing sectors," said Ben Brancel, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "We need a balance between all of these sectors to ensure a successful agricultural industry."
Brancel reminds that agriculture supports one in 10 jobs in Wisconsin and is a $59 billion dollar industry. "When communities seek this designation, they should consider the variety of things that can be done locally to ensure these areas are viable for the future," advises Brancel.
The department's goal is to designate 250,000 additional acres throughout Wisconsin as agricultural enterprise areas as part of the 2012 petition cycle. To date, 17 areas totaling 340,000 acres have been designated as AEAs. The state has the authority to designate up to 1,000,000 acres total.
Farmers and local governments jointly develop a petition for an AEA. More than 400 landowners, 14 counties and 39 towns worked together to develop the 17 petitions that were selected in 2010 and 2011. Go to datcp.wi.gov/Environment/Working_Lands_Initiative/AEA/index.aspx to learn more about the designated AEAs in Wisconsin and to use the new interactive map of the areas.
The AEA petition materials are available online at: http://workinglands.wi.gov,
then click on the link to Agricultural Enterprise Areas. Applicants should use the materials for 2012 as there are changes from last year. Petitions must be postmarked by March 30, 2012.
Interested individuals can attend free workshops set for January 2012 to receive
guidance on the process for receiving this designation. Registration is available online at https://datcpservices.wisconsin.gov/confreg/AEAworkshops.jsp or call 608-224-4625.
The workshops will run from 10:00 am until 2:30 p.m. at the following locations:
• Madison - Thursday, Jan. 12, Board Room, 1st floor, DATCP, 2811 Agriculture Dr.
• Black River Falls - Tuesday, Jan. 17, East Room, lower level, DNR Service Center, 910 Hwy. 54 East.
• Oshkosh: Thursday, Jan. 19, J.P. Coughlin Center, 625 E. County Road Y.
"The department hosted an AEA forum in September where existing AEAs shared ideas on what worked as they developed their petition and how they're moving forward," explained Coreen Fallat, AEA program manager. "We'll be able to share these experiences at the upcoming workshops as we review the petition process and AEA program basics."
For more information about AEAs, contact AEA Program Manager Coreen Fallat at Coreen.Fallat@wisconsin.gov
or (608) 224-4625.