Oct 03, 2014

Rock County Sets the PACE

Rock County in south central Wisconsin has taken a big step toward permanently protecting some of Wisconsin’s best farmland.

The County Board voted 21-4 in September 2014 to approve an annual appropriation of $200,000 to support the county’s Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements program.  The county sales tax will be the source of revenue this year.

Rock County’s PACE program has already logged successes, employing funding from a power line settlement as a match to funding from federal easement programs and to defray costs associated with

Pending funding from the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the county is poised to protect more than 1,200 acres in either purchased or donated easements by the end of 2015.

Under the program, landowners who sell easements can be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of appraised value. Fifty percent would come from ACEP and 25 percent from county funds. Landowners who choose to donate all or a portion of an easement benefit from county funding for appraisals, title work and long-term oversight of the easement.

A diverse ad hoc committee led by longtime farmland protection advocate and County Board Supervisor Al Sweeney established program criteria and priorities. Just over 40,000 acres were identified in a primary target area, 32,663 in a secondary target area and 228,264 in a third area.

It took lots of hard work, making sure all stakeholders were at the table and a determination to protect some of the best farmland in the world, says County Conservationist Thomas Sweeney. Supporters of the program made the case for long-term farmland preservation, economic development and the reduced cost of government services required on farmland compared to other uses.

Rock County’s prairie soils are considered to be among the best in the state.

For more information on the program, click here.