By LeAnn R. Ralph
TOWN OF OTTER CREEK — The Otter Creek Town Board has approved the Agricultural Enterprise Area for the Town of the Grant.
Mark Dietsche, chair of the Town of Grant, and Dan Prestebak, Dunn County conservationist, appeared at the Otter Creek Town Board’s February 12 meeting to seek support for the Grant Ag Enterprise Area.
Agricultural Enterprise Areas are replacing the farmland preservation program, although the intent of the new program is still to preserve farmland, Prestebak said.
Setting up an AEA requires five landowners to petition the state, and the land must be contiguous, he said.
Townships and the county must also sign on as petitioners to form an AEA, Prestebak said.
Under the old farmland preservation program, landowners could sign individual contracts; under the AEA program, only farmers in Agricultural Enterprise Areas can sign 15 year contracts to receive an income tax credit, he said.
The Town of Grant has 13 farmers interested in the AEA, Dietsche said.
The Grant Agricultural Enterprise Area includes most of the Town of Grant and extends into the Towns of Colfax, Cooks Valley, Auburn, Sand Creek and Otter Creek, Prestebak said.
The adjoining townships must also approve resolutions in support of the AEA before the ag enterprise area in the Town of Grant can proceed, he said.
The Town of Grant is zoned exclusive agriculture.
Farmers must have $6,000 per year of gross farm product, or $18,000 in three years of gross farm product, to qualify for participation in an AEA, Prestebak said.
The adjoining townships do not have any administrative duties attached to their support of the AEA, Dietsche said.
Farmers who sign the 15-year-contract in the AEA are eligible for a $10 per acre credit on their state income tax.
In 1980, all of Dunn County was designated as productive farmland, but Bob Colson, Dunn County planner, is working on revising the county’s plan, Prestebak said.
The new plan may not identify all of Dunn County as farmland, so the Ag Enterprise Areas are particularly important to protect as much farmland as possible, he said.
The application for the AEA must be submitted to the state by March 24, Prestebak said.
Mark Warner, town chair, wondered how the AEA would change the Town of Otter Creek.
No one in Otter Creek has signed a 15-year contract yet, but once the AEA is approved, farmers who are eligible could sign up if they want to, Prestebak said.
Sale of property
Warner also wondered whether landowners could sell their property for residential development once the Town of Otter Creek has approved an AEA.
If landowners sign a 15-year agreement, they cannot sell their land for residential development, or if they do sell their land, they incur a substantial penalty to get the land out of the AEA, Dietsche said.
If landowners do not sign a contract, then there are no restrictions on the sale of their land even if the land is in an Ag Enterprise Area, he said.
Farmers are only eligible for a tax credit where the zoning is A1 if they do not sign a contract, Dietsche said.
The state income tax credit does not change the amount of property taxes collected by a township that has approved an AEA resolution; the credit comes off the state income tax, Dietsche explained.
The Otter Creek Town unanimously approved the resolution to support the Town of Grant Agricultural Enterprise Area.
A resolution supporting the Town of Grant Agricultural Enterprise Area also is on the agenda for the Dunn County Board’s February 20 meeting.