Agricultural Enterprise Areas

AEA’s are part of Wisconsin's Working Lands Initiative. An AEA is an area where the local community has prioritized preservation of farmland and agricultural development.

What's an Agricultural Enterprise Area?

AEA’s are part of Wisconsin's Working Lands Initiative. An AEA is an area where the local community has prioritized preservation of farmland and agricultural development.

Designation of an agricultural enterprise area is a tool that the local community can use to help promote the future viability of existing agricultural and agriculture-related land use. Once an area is officially designated as an AEA, eligible farmers owning land within the area may enter into a farmland preservation agreement with the state. This enables the landowners to receive tax credits in exchange for agreeing to keep their farm in agricultural use for at least 15 years.

In response to the first-ever call for petitions, DATCP received requests for designation totaling 222,000 acres. More than 150 landowners, 25 city and town governments and 11 county governments signed the petitions.

Several included a focus on renewable energy or energy conservation while others make a connection to local foods with community supported agriculture and organic production. Another is looking to increase vegetable production to support the local food processing industry.  A summary of the petitions can be viewed here.

“The Agricultural Enterprise Areas under the Working Lands Initiative are a key part of protecting what underlies Wisconsin’s $59 billion agricultural economy – the land,” Former DATCP Secretary Randy Romanski said. “Local leaders from around the state have already come forward to petition for the preservation of 200,000 acres of diverse and highly productive farmland, and I expect very strong interest from around the state again in 2011.”

Farmers and local governments develop a petition for an AEA. Once an AEA is designated, these areas allow eligible farmers to enter into a farmland preservation agreement with the state to claim a farmland preservation tax credit. These areas can also foster collaboration between adjacent landowners and create a sense of certainty about the future of agriculture.

Local governments can add to these incentives to further promote farmland preservation and agricultural economic development in their communities.

The department is in the process of designating the first 12 AEAs, totaling 200,000 acres. These 12 AEAs were selected from petitions submitted from across Wisconsin during the 2010 cycle.

For the 2011 cycle, the department’s goal is to designate 250,000 acres. Priority will be given to prospective AEAs of between 1,000 to 30,000 acres.