Winnebago County Farmland Preservation in jeopardy; group preparing plan

Kay Lettau

The term family farm has a special meaning for most people. It means family heritage, a sense of belonging, a living biosphere, food and family roots growing deeply. Farmland is a very valuable resource in every community. It is more than a commodity to sell. What can we do to preserve the soil, water, wildlife, food and family heritage?

Dairy cow

The Winnebago County Farmland Preservation Plan Steering Committee has been working for the past year to guide preparation of the Farmland Preservation Map and Plan that will define the future of our county’s family farms.

The Wisconsin Farmland Preservation Program is designed to help local governments and landowners preserve agricultural land, minimize conflicting land uses and promote soil and water conservation.

For those farmers who had not signed up, consultation meetings were held in June for interested farmers to meet with staff one-on-one to answer specific questions about the program.

This year Winnebago County has about 80 farms participating in the program with almost 13,000 acres contributing approximately $97,000, which is immediately reinvested into our local economy.

In 1997 the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill to recognize the importance of farmland as a resource to promote agricultural growth, promote soil and water conservation, identify farmland to avoid conflicting uses by providing a buffer with non-agricultural uses and to recognize farmland as a part of long-range comprehensive planning. The Legislature also provided financial incentives for farmers to comply with state soil and water conservation standards.

Now we are at a critical juncture. It is time to be serious about the future of family farms in Winnebago County.

The Winnebago County Planning Department is in the process of making a total revision of the Farmland Preservation Area Planning Map and has requested affirmation from each farmer expressing their intent to be shown as a Farmland Preservation parcel in order to be listed on the new county zoning map.

Many farmers have already signed up to declare their intent. Many more have not and may not even be aware that even if they were in Farmland Preservation last year, they need to sign up again to be included in Farmland Preservation for the future.

There are two parts to participating in the Farmland Preservation Program:

First is the one-page FPP application form expressing your interest in continuing to farm on your land by listing the parcels you own and wish to be included on the Farmland Preservation Area Planning Map. It is totally voluntary and you are not required to do anything more.

The second step, if you want to Participate in the $7.50/acre tax credit, is to implement and meet certain requirements including Conservation Compliance and a Nutrient Management Plan for the parcels on which you wish to claim the credit. This second step, again, is totally voluntary as well.

You must let the Planning and Zoning department know of your intent by filling out the form that was mailed to you or go to its website at www.co.winnebago.wi.us/planning-and-zoning and download the simple, one-page form called FPP Application Form found under Planning Department.

Return it ASAP to: Winnebago County Planning Department, Farmland Preservation, 112 Otter Ave, P.O. Box 2808, Oshkosh, WI 54903-2808.

Winnebago County’s family farms, large and small, have much to gain from Farmland Preservation.

Remember, there must be a positive response from enough farmers signing up to be included on the Farmland Preservation Plan Participation Map so that our county Planning Department will be able to complete a state compliant Farmland Preservation Map. Only the successful completion of the state certified map will enable farmers to participate in the Farmland Preservation Program and financial incentives.

If there are not enough participants, there will be no Farmland Preservation option for anyone, even if you have participated in the past! These farms also would lose A-1 zoning and be rezoned A-2.