Apply for a Farmland Preservation Agreement

Landowners can apply for a farmland preservation agreement for land owned and located within an Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA). A farmland preservation agreement requires the land to be kept in agricultural use for 15 years and to meet state soil and w​ater conservation standards. In return, the agreement enables the landowner to claim a farmland preservation tax credit.

Application Materials

Application for a farmland preservation agreement
Instructions for completing an agreement application
Sample of farmland preservation agreement contract

Landowner Considerations Prior to Entering into a Farmland Preservation Agreement

Farmland Preservation Agreement Frequently asked questions- Printer Friendly: Details about eligibility, benefits, allowable land uses, conservation compliance, land sales and ownership, and claiming the tax credit.

What are the eligibility requirements for entering into a farmland preservation agreement?

  1. You must be the owner of the farmland.
  2. The farmland must be located in a designated Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA). If you need assistance to determine whether your farmland is located in an AEA, please contact the County Land Conservation Department in the County where your farm is located or DATCP for assistance.
  3. The farm must have produced $6,000 in gross farm revenue during the last year or $18,000 in gross farm revenue during the last three years
  4. The farm must be in compliance with applicable state soil and water conservation standards. For more information on the conservation standards that apply to your farm, please contact the county land conservation department in the county where your farm is located.

What are the​​​​ benefits of having a farmland preservation agreement?

By entering into a farmland preservation agreement, you are indicating your commitment to continue farming the land that you own. In return for this commitment, you may claim the farmland preservation income tax credit. This credit is equal to $5 per acre or $10 per acre if the land is also located in a certified farmland preservation zoning district.
A farmland preservation agreement does not protect land from annexation or from the exercise of eminent domain for public works projects. However, land in agricultural use and covered by a farmland preservation agreement is exempt from special assessments levied by a political subdivision, special purpose district or other local governmental entity for sanitary sewer or water.

How do I show compliance with the soil and water conservation standards?

Landowners show compliance with the soil and water conservation standards by receiving a certificate of compliance from the county land conservation committee. If you have not yet received a certificate of compliance, you must contact the County Land Conservation Department in the county where your farm is located to schedule a time to discuss your farm’s compliance status.

What are the land use restrictions of an agreement?

Farmland preservation agreements signed after July 1, 2009 are for 15 years and require the land to remain in the following uses for the term of the agreement:

  • agricultural use
  • accessory use
  • undeveloped natural resource and open space use
  • or minor pre-existing use which is compatible with agricultural use

Remember that other local ordinances (such as zoning and land division ordinances) continue to apply to your land, regardless of whether you sign an agreement. In many instances, these local ordinances establish limits on non-farm residential or commercial development of agricultural land.

Can I exclude some lands from my agreements?

When completing the agreement application, you may choose to exclude a portion of owned land, including a portion of a parcel, from coverage under the agreement. If you wish to exclude land from coverage, you must provide the department with a clear description of the land to be excluded from the agreement in writing and attach the description to the respective deed. The description must include the parcel number and the acreage of the excluded area. The excluded area must also be shown on an aerial photo. You may develop the description, or get assistance to develop the description.

Can I buy, sell or transfer lands to a new owner if they are covered by an agreement?

You may sell land enrolled in a farmland preservation agreement without penalty. The farmland preservation agreement runs with the land and the purchaser will need to comply with the terms of the agreement until its natural expiration or until a portion of the land is released from the agreement. When you sell land or otherwise transfer ownership, consider providing a copy of the farmland preservation agreement to the new owner or suggest that they contact the register of deeds office for a copy. This will help the new owner to better understand their obligations and enable them to claim the tax credit on the acres that they now own.

Can land be released from a farmland preservation agreement prior to its natural expiration?​

DATCP may release land from a farmland preservation agreement prior to its natural expiration if all of the following apply:

  • All of the landowners of land covered by the farmland preservation agreements consent to the release in writing (on a form provided by DATCP)
  • DATCP finds the release of lands will not impair or limit agricultural use of other protected farmland
  • The owners pay to the department, for each acre or portion thereof released from the agreement, a conversion fee equal to 3 times the per acre value, for the year in which the land is released, of the highest value category of tillable cropland in the city, village or town in which the land is located, as specified by the department of revenue under s. 73.03(2a), Wis. Stats.

Contact DATCP if you need to request a copy of the form to release some lands from an existing farmland preservation agreement.