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Government Affairs Updates

 
The Government Affairs Committee Chair Richard Wedepohl and Executive Director Nancy Bozek provide periodic updates on WWOA's Government Affairs Committee action. These updates are provided below.  If you are interested in receiving updates, email GovernmentAffairs@WisconsinWoodlands.org

If you are interested in following Wisconsin legislative bills you can register at the Wisconsin State Legislature website.  Select Legislation and then Bill Notification.  This will allow you to set up an account.  Log into your account to set preferences such as key words (such as forest, woodlands or forest cropland), subjects, or committees to follow.  You will then receive emails directly from the State Legislature when there is legislative action based on your selections.
 

 

Recent WWOA Government Affairs updates:
 

March 21, 2014 Update

March 17, 2014 Update

February 14, 2014 Update

February 7, 2014 Update

September 14, 2013 Update

July 2 & August 6, 2013 Update

June 26, 2013 Update

April 15, 2013 Update

January 30, 2013 Update

November 15, 2012 Update

July 19 Update

February 27 Update

January 23 Update

December 22 Update

November 11 Update

October 10 Update

September 10 Update

September 5 Update

August 22 Update

 

Additional Resources: 
 

WWOA's Comments on Division of Forestry Strategic Plan & DNR Response

Property Tax Considerations for Wisconsin Woodland Owners - A Presentation to NW Chapter 

Commentary: Wisconsin's Forest Lands - An Endangered Landscape Asset

WWOA's Position Paper on SB 161

How to make sure your land is properly classified

Managed Forest Law - to Re-enroll or not? 

Woodland Property Taxes: How Do Yours Compare?

ttt



March 21, 2014 Update


Managed Forest Law bills update

On March 19, the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue held a public hearing on SB 543. WWOA's testimony supported SB 543 but included some concerns about  SB 543 and  some of the provisions that appeared in the amended version of AB 700.  The Senate Committee has not acted on the bill.  


 


March 17, 2014 Update


Managed Forest Law Public Hearing Announced - Senate Bill 543

The Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue will hold a public hearing on
Senate Bill 543, the companion bill to Assembly Bill 700.  The public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 10 AM in the Wisconsin Capitol, Room 411 South.  Woodland owners are encouraged to participate in this public hearing.


Assembly Bill 700 was significantly amended by the Assembly Committee on the Environment and Forestry on March 4, 2014 and then the Executive Committee voted it out of Committee.  

A summary of AB 700 and SB 543 action in the past month was provided to the WWOA  Board of Directors at their meeting on Friday, March 14, 2014.

Please see below for the history on these bills.
 


February 14, 2014 Update 

More Bills with potential impacts on the Managed Forest Law (MFL) program

Senate Bill 543 is the companion bill to AB 700 has been introduced by Senator Tiffany and referred to the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue.

Assembly Bill 732 and Senate Bill 575 have been introduced.  These bills redistribute the Managed Forest Law closed acre fees paid by landowners with 75% of the fees going to DNR for deposit in the conservation fund and 25% to local municipalities for 2014 only.  It also requires DNR to increase the county forest land per acre fee paid to towns from 30 cents to 55 cents beginning with payments made in 2014.

Assembly Bill 665 establishes an additional requirement for MFL eligibility.  Under the bill, in order for land to be designated as MFL, it must be accessible to the public on foot (for permitted MFL recreational activities - hunting, fishing, hiking, sightseeing and cross-country skiing), unless it has been designated as closed to public access.  This would only apply to new entries if the bill is passed.

AB 665 also prohibits the expenditure of stewardship funding to acquire land that is required to be open to the public unless the land is accessible to the public on foot.
 



February 7, 2014 Update

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 700 proposes changes to the Managed Forest Law (MFL) program


On January 31, 2014 Assembly Bill 700 was introduced.  A summary of the major bill provisions is available.  While the bill does not address MFL tax rates or yield tax rates it does give landowners additional flexibility within the program.  The bill does not clarify which provisions apply to all MFL landowners and which provisions will only apply to new MFL entries if the bill is passed.

A public hearing was held on February 4, 2014.  Even though the timeline was short, WWOA was present at the hearing to represent our members.  WWOA's testimony supported AB 700 but also included concerns about the wording of some provisions within the bill.  

Discussion on AB 700 continued at the Council on Forestry meeting on February 6, 2013.  WWOA will continue to work with Representatives Mursau and Clark and Senator Tiffany on possible amendments to AB 700.  You are encouraged to contact your state representative and senator with your opinions or concerns about this bill.

AB 700 was based on the work of the Wisconsin Council on Forestry's The Managed Forest Law  A Summary of Recommended Program Revisions report dated June 19, 2013.
 


September 14, 2013 Update
 

  •  Timber Tax Credit Inequity Discussed
  •  MFL Change Recommendations - Status Update
  • Council on Forestry Visits Duren Farm
  • Law Change allows land withdrawals for construction of residences on some MFL agreements
  • WWOA provides support for NAFO's national lobbying effort
  • WWOA Representative Appointed to Silviculture Team
  • Senators Tiffany and Moulton visit Mike Greenheck's farm in Buffalo County
  • Department of Revenue to revise rule that defines land eligible for use-value assessment

Correcting Timber Tax Inequity to be Considered
 
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has proposed "technical corrections" to previously passed tax reduction legislation that excluded timber sales.  This tax reduction is scheduled to begin its phase in this tax year.  Representatives Mursau and Clark, along with Senator Tom Tiffany, have said they will take a look at SB 253 and AB 285 to see if this inequity can be corrected through changes to these bills now working their way through the legislature.   
 
Background:  Wisconsin currently taxes agricultural income at 7.9%.  After recently passed legislation is fully implemented, the effective state income tax on certain agricultural proceeds will be 0.4%. 
 
The agricultural components of this new law only apply to lands that have been classified as agricultural by assessors under use-value assessment.  That means if you're growing corn, beans, pasturing animals or meeting other conditions that allow your land to be taxed at use-value rates, you'll receive this tax break. Sale of timber is not eligible.
  
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue recently released Fact Sheet 1107 that identifies who is eligible to claim the new tax credit. 
 
To see DOR's fact sheet Click Here
  
An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides additional information about this new legislation. To see this article Click Here 
  
BOTTOM LINE:  Legislators need to be made aware that timber is an agricultural product just as are corn, beans, and hay. 
 
 
Update on Proposed MFL Changes

 
At its September 9th meeting, the Council on Forestry voted to transmit a package of recommended MFL changes to the legislature.  Representative Mursau announced that he and Senator Tiffany are going to begin drafting legislation for which there was Council consensus. 
Major program changes recommended were removing he prohibition to lease closed lands, changes to regulations that would allow more flexibility for splitting of MFL lands, and a recommendation that withdrawal penalties be reduced.
Unfinished Business - Closed Acreage Tax Rate Increases:  Debate still continues on whether or not the scheduled closed acreage tax increases should continue.  
For landowners who've entered closed land into the MFL after 2004, or for new entries, the total tax is now $10.68/acre.  $8.54 of this $10.68/acre tax does not go back to local government, but rather, is a state tax that is directed to the state's $110 million dollar forestry account.  
In 2011 this tax on the 2.1 million acres of closed lands generated $5 million.  If one does the math, this amounts to $2.38/acre for all enrolled lands, some at old rates and some at new.  However, as old contracts expire and if enrollment stays the same, this tax would generate $18 million. 
To keep the MFL competitive with agricultural use value taxes, taxes that average $3/acre, and to allow tree farms to be operated as a business, we've argued the scheduled tax increases need to be rescinded.  
Unfortunately there were some on the council who could not support a recommendation to lower the incoming $10.68/acre rate for closed lands. And at the September 10th Council meeting George Meyer made a presentation where he said it's important to keep incentives that would open up more public access on the currently closed 2 million acres of MFL.  He said this is a "hot button" issue for the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation members he represents. 
To see the Council report Click Here

BOTTOM LINE:  Now is the time when state legislators and the governor will be looking at what changes need to be made to the MFL.  Woodland owners need to continue to emphasize that that the growing of trees for harvest has to be treated similarly to other agricultural land uses.     
 
Council on Forestry Visits Duren Farm
                       
On September 9th the Council on Forestry. along with Representatives Czaja, Mursau, Miller and Clark, paid a visit to Doug Duren's farm in Richland County.  The field trip was to visit with a landowner who participates in the MFL and to hear about issues timber producers face in agriculturally dominated parts of the state.  It was an excellent event and thanks to those who took the time to learn more. 
  
To learn about Doug's farm and issues he's facing, Click Here to see the handout.  
 
 
Law Change Allows Withdrawal of Land in MFL for Construction of a Residence   
 
Included in the recent state budget bill was language that will allow landowners, who were enrolled in the MFL prior to October 1979, to withdraw a small amount of land for construction of a residence.
 
The Council on Forestry has recommended that this provision apply to all MFL lands, not just for those enrolled prior to 1979.  
For more information on this new change Click Here
 
 
WWOA Provides Support for NAFO's Lobbying Effort at the National Level
 
The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAF0) has led the effort at the national level to provide comments and support for legislation that affects private woodland owners.  WWOA has signed on to letters of support related to tax policy and farm bill provisions.  To learn more about NAFO and policy issues that affect woodland owners go to:  Click Here                    

 
WWOA Representative Appointed to the new Silviculture Guidance Team 
 
After a significant effort was put forth by Nancy Bozek and many other WWOA members, the DNR has agreed to appoint WWOA member, Ron Jones as a representative to the new Silviculture Guidance Team. This team is being revised in response to a council recommendation that would allow for more public participation as this manual is revised.
 
For more information on the silviculture handbook team you can Click Here
 
 
Senator's Tiffany and Moulton visit Mike Greenheck's Farm in Buffalo County
                       
On Thursday, May 23rd, Mike Greenheck hosted a tour of his Buffalo County farm where Senators Tiffany and Moulton, along with Council on Forestry Chair Henry Schienebeck and Joe Arington, saw first hand what issues private woodland owners currently face.  
 
Sites visited included areas that he's actively logging, clear cut areas being regenerated for oak, land planted with trees that is currently enrolled in CRP, and sites where adjacent landowners have pastured their woodland to obtain use-value property tax rates. 
 
Like many working forest landowners, Mike is faced with having to make decisions on how to keep his assets intact.  High woodland taxes, less attractive MFL options, pressures to convert forest land to agricultural and other land use options that provide more income.
 
BOTTOM LINE:  Unless landowners share their experiences with state legislators, changes needed to sustain Wisconsin's forest products industry will not be made.       
 
Department of Revenue Reviewing Land Eligible for Use Value Assessment Taxation
 
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue is considering changes to the rule which defines lands eligible for use value assessment.  The changes being evaluated can be found in their Scope Statement by Clicking Here 
 
At this time the department is focusing on identifying state and federal programs  for which land enrolled in them will continue to be taxed at use value rates.  Watch for future updates on this issue.
 
BOTTOM LINE:  Although this rule change may be limited in scope, there will still be opportunities for woodland owners to testify on this law.
 



July 2, 2013 Update

Wisconsin's Budget Bill Contains a New Option for Managed Forest Law Program Participants
Effective July 2, 2013: 


The WI DNR has released a publication to help those interested in learning more about this option, Managed Forest Law Withdrawal For Construction of a Residence.

Chapter 77
Section 1501b. 77.88 (3g) of the statutes is created to read:
77.88 (3g) Withdrawal for construction of a residence. (a) In this subsection, "parcel" means the acreage of contiguous land that is under the same ownership and that is described in the application for designation of that land as managed forest land.
(am) Except as provided in par. (b), upon the request of an owner to withdraw at least one acre of the owner's land as managed forest land, the department shall order withdrawal of the land if all of the following apply:
1. The purpose for which the owner requests that the department withdraw the land is to construct a human residence.
2. The land was designated as managed forest land before October 11, 1997.
3. If the land is not subject to a city, village, town, or county zoning ordinance that establishes a minimum acreage for the construction of a human residence, the owner requests that the department withdraw not more than 3 acres of land.
4. If the land is subject to a city, village, town, or county zoning ordinance that establishes a minimum acreage for the construction of a human residence that is more than one acre, the owner requests that the department withdraw not more than the acreage of land required by the applicable zoning ordinance for construction of a human residence.
(b) The department may not order withdrawal of land under par. (am) from a parcel of managed forest land if the department has previously ordered withdrawal of land under par. (am) from that parcel of managed forest land.
20, s. 1501c Section 1501c. 77.88 (8) (b) of the statutes is amended to read:
77.88 (8) (b) The department may not order withdrawal of land remaining after a transfer of ownership is made under par. (a) 1., 2., or 3. or, after a lease is entered into under par. (a) 3., or after the department orders withdrawal of land under sub. (3g) (am) unless the remainder fails to meet the eligibility requirements under s. 77.82 (1).
  



June 26, 2013 Update

WI COUNCIL ON FORESTRY RELEASES MANAGED FOREST LAW SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDED PROGRAM REVISIONS

The Council accepts the MFL report as a final summary of recommended program revisions.  The Council submits the report to the Council’s legislative representatives with the request that legislation be drafted based on the recommendations in the report.  The Council further requests that the 21 items for which there is a consensus be drafted as a package, reflecting the trade-offs contained within.  The Council further recognizes that there are issues in the report for which the consensus did not include specific recommendations.  The Council stands ready to work with the legislature, as requested, to refine those issues.

The report can be found at Managed Forest Law A Summary of Recommended Program Revision
Please note this is a larger file and may take a few minutes to download.
 



April 15, 2013 Update

PROPOSED MFL CHANGES TO BE DISCUSSED BY THE COUNCIL ON FORESTRY

On April 22, 2013, the Council on Forestry will meet in Stevens Point to discuss changes to the Managed Forest Lands law.  Council members include Senator Tom Tiffany, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue.  Council member Representative Jeff Mursau chairs the Assembly’s Environment and Forestry committee.  Also on the council is Representative Fred Clark who led earlier discussions on MFL changes.  All three of these legislators have been paying particularly close attention to the discussions and recommendations now being developed.
    
This meeting is open to the public and anyone interested in hearing the Council discussion on proposed MFL changes is welcome to attend.   The meeting will be held at Stevens Point’s Holiday Inn beginning at 9 am, April 22.

Work began with initial reviews of the MFL, which was then followed by a prioritization of a long list of proposed MFL changes.  A committee of the council then developed a package of recommendations that will form the basis for discussions at the April 22 meeting.  The entire document can be viewed at: Council on Forestry Report 

Some of the more significant changes recommended by the committee include:

  • Reducing/restructuring withdrawal taxes and fees
  • Allow small acreage withdrawals without the need for full description withdrawals first
  •  Allow lands to remain in MFL, or allow exempt withdrawal, if natural events lead to loss of productivity requirements
  • Revise the application process for lands being reenrolled in the MFL
  • Eliminate the present acreage cap and allow small landowners (less than 1000 acres) to enroll their lands as closed by public access
  • Allow landowners the ability to lease lands closed to public access for activities that are compatible with sustainable forestry
  • Require small landowners to identify legal access for lands enrolled as open
  • Require that all lands owned by large landowners be open to the public
WWOA has recommended that 6 areas of the current law needed revision.  They were restoring the ability to lease MFL lands, lower the current tax rate, provide more regulatory certainty and consistency, eliminate or change how the yield tax is calculated, reduce enrollment costs, and allow the use of economic considerations on when timber should be harvested.  Most, but not all of these recommendations were considered for further analysis.
WWOA’s recommendation to eliminate or change how yield taxes are calculated did not make the initial cut of priorities and was not part of the current discussion. 
 
Allowing more flexibility on when timber has to be harvested was discussed but no changes were recommended.  This decision followed a discussion on how the DNR currently provides a 3 year window for mandatory harvests along with flexibility to address special situations where landowners have difficulty acquiring consultants or bids for harvesting.  
 
 
LOWERING THE TAX RATE FOR LANDS CLOSED TO PUBLIC ACCESS – AN ISSUE STILL REMAINING
 
WWOA’s recommendation that the current MFL tax rate of $10.68/acre needs  to be reduced was debated but the committee was unable to come to consensus on this topic.  However, the committee did recommend that further discussion take place. 
 
In 2005, following full implementation of use value assessment for other agricultural lands, the law was changed to increase tax rates on MFL lands.  For lands enrolled prior to 2004 when the law was changed,  and those enrolled in 2005 and later are shown below.  

TAXES PAID ON MFL LANDS ENROLLED PRIOR TO 2005


Tax YearOpen Acre RateClosed Acre Rate
2003-2007$0.83$1.95
2008-2012$0.67$1.57
2013-2017$0.79$1.87

TAXES PAID ON MFL LANDS ENROLLED 2005 AND LATER
 
Tax YearOpen Acre RateClosed Acre Rate
2003-2007$1.46$7.28
2008-2012$1.67$8.34
2013-2017$2.14$10.68
 
 

Tax revenues received from MFL landowners are split between local government and the state of Wisconsin.  Local governments now receive $2.14/acre (the current open rate) for all MFL lands entered into the program after 2004. 
 
The difference between the open and closed rates, $8.54/acre, goes back to the State of Wisconsin where it is directed into the state’s forestry account.   In 2011 this state tax generated $5,000,000, a number that is rapidly increasing as older contracts expire and tax rates increase. 
 
As shown below, most MFL lands were entered into the program prior to 2005 and are still being taxed at the lower rates.  However, as these agreements expire, landowners are faced with making decisions to re-enter based on the now much higher tax rates. 
 
Current MFL Open Acres = 1,107,000 acres (82% enrolled between 1987 – 2004)
Current MFL Closed Acres = 2,138,000 acres (65% enrolled between 1987 – 2004)
Total MFL Acres = 3,245,000 acres (36% of Wisconsin’s 9 million acres of privately owned woodland)
 
 
Points Made During Council MFL Committee Discussions as to Why the Rates Should be Lowered
 

  •  With a tax rate of $10.68/acre, landowners can only rarely justify to the IRS that they are in the business of growing trees for a profit.  Exceptions are those cases where you own a mature pine plantation nearing harvest, or an exceptional well established hardwood stand.  Never could you justify planting trees as a business.  National figures indicate that timberland tax rates need to be in the neighborhood of $1 to $3 per acre to justify operating a tree farm with a for profit intent.
  • In some parts of the state there are forest lands currently being taxed at a lower rate than the MFL’s $10.68/acre.  In these instances there is no financial incentive whatsoever to sign an MFL easement.
  • With use value based pasture land tax rates being between $1 and $2 per acre, many woodland owners are beginning to pasture, or re-pasture their woodlands to obtain this huge property tax break.
  • On the marginal crop land where trees once may have been planted, the MFL rate of $10.68 provides only negative incentives given that these landowners currently pay property taxes of   $2 to $3 per acre.
  •  Reducing the state tax of $8.54/acre for lands closed to public access would have no impact on local government revenues.   

 
Despite these arguments for reducing the closed acreage tax, the committee could not come to a consensus.  One committee member made the statement that if landowners wanted to grow trees as a business they should enroll their land as being open to unlimited public access.  Another suggested that if the current rate was lowered, there would be a loss of public support for the MFL and that the state’s $110,000,000 forestry account would be negatively affected.   Also mentioned was that sign-ups for the MFL continue, indicating the current rate may not be a problem.
 
BOTTOM LINE:  What recommendations will come from the Council on Forestry is not known.  Ultimately our state legislators will decide if any changes to MFL tax rates are needed to keep the MFL a program that has successfully contributed to making Wisconsin #1 in the forest products industry.  



January 30, 2013 Update
 
In This Update: 
•           Timber Sales not eligible for state income tax reduction
•           DNR/DOR definition of Productive Forest Land not Reconciled
•           Ag Day at the Capitol
•           Farmland Preservation Hearings Scheduled
•           Council on Forestry to discuss MFL
•           WWOA positions on MFL 
•           Legislative Committee Assignments and Contacts
 
 
Timber Sales Not Eligible for Recent State Income tax reduction
 
Wisconsin currently taxes agricultural income at 7.9%.  After recently passed legislation is fully implemented, the effective state income tax on certain agricultural proceeds will be 0.4%. 
 
The agricultural components of this new law only apply to lands that have been classified as agricultural by assessors under use-value assessment.  That means if you're growing corn, beans, pasturing animals or meeting other conditions that allow your land to be taxed at use-value rates, you'll receive this tax break. 
 
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue recently released Fact Sheet 1107 that identifies who is eligible to claim the new tax credit.  By clicking on the first hot link in this fact sheet you'll see that the law limits this tax break only to income obtained from lands classified as agricultural under Wisconsin's current property tax system. 
 
Productive forest land is not listed so even if these lands have a management plan and the landowner receives income from timber sales, that income is not eligible for this tax credit.
Here's the link to DOR's fact sheet  http://www.revenue.wi.gov/taxpro/fact/manufandagr.pdf
  
 
An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides additional information about this new legislation. http://www.jsonline.com/business/123245453.html
 
BOTTOM LINE:  Apparently working forest lands are not considered an agricultural business.  Why that is the case is not known. 
 
 
Differing Agency Definitions on Productive Forest Land Cannot be Reconciled
 
In July 2012, WWOA requested that the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Revenue provide consistency in defining what comprises productive forest land. 

The problem has been that some assessors have classified swampy low lands as "Productive Forest" which is taxed at 100% of full fair market value (FMV) rather than as "Undeveloped" which is taxed at 50% of FMV. 
 
Landowners who then attempted to enroll these lands into the MFL were told by their foresters that their land did not meet DNR's definition of productive forest land. 

Under DOR's definition in Chapter 70.32(2)(c)2, "Productive forest land" means land that is producing or is capable of producing commercial forest products ...
 
Under DNR's definition in Chapter 77.82(1)(a)2, "Productive forest land" means land that must be producing or capable of producing a minimum of 20 cubic feet of merchantable timber per acre per year.  
 
WWOA was recently informed that the DNR and DOR could not agree to reconcile their interpretations of these definitions to eliminate inconsistencies.  Reportedly the DOR felt that if they provided more detailed guidance to assessors such actions would result in a "tax shift", something DOR wasn't willing to do without having the legislature pass clarifying language.
 
No detail was provided by the DOR on how providing clearer guidance to assessors would result in a "tax shift" rather than simply resulting in an improvement in consistency between the two agencies. 
 
BOTTOM LINE:  Ask your state legislators to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue solve their differences in interpreting the definitions of what comprises Productive Forest Land.
 
 
Ag Day at the Capitol
 
Tree farmers may want to attend this Farm Bureau sponsored event on March 6 at the Monona Terrace in Madison.  The event begins at 11 am and runs until 3 pm when attendees are encouraged to visit their legislators. 
 
Farm Bureau representatives and legislators will provide briefings on expected legislative hot topics which include agricultural economic development, use value assessment and environmental issues.  This meeting would provide an opportunity to let your legislators know that timberland should also be taxed at a use-value rate.  For more information and to register for this event you can call the Farm Bureau at 800-261-3276. 
 
BOTTOM LINE:   Tree farmers are farmers too.  Consider attending this meeting, let them know you are a farmer, voice your concerns, and consider joining the Farm Bureau Federation, an organization that works hard to help Wisconsin's other agricultural producers.
 
 
Farmland Preservation Hearings Scheduled
 
Timber producers can be eligible for $7.50/acre, or higher, tax credits if their woodland is appropriately zoned.  
 
Farmland Preservation, also called Working Lands, is a program where the statutes specifically identify forestry as an agricultural use.  A component of this proposed rule defines forest management as private woodlands that are managed in accordance with a written management plan. 
 
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture has proposed rules that define what type of zoning will need to be in place in each county to allow producers to claim this tax credit.  Hearings on these rules are scheduled to begin at 2:30 pm and will be held at:

 
Feb 14 - Outagamie Highway Dept, Appleton
Feb 21 - DNR Service Center, Eau Claire
Feb 26 - Marathon County UW-Extension Office, Wausau
Feb 28 - DATCP Headquarters, Madison
 
More information can be obtained by calling Alison Volk at 608-224-4712 or emailing her at Alison.volk@wisconsin.gov.
 
BOTTOM LINE: Make sure you follow your county's development of farmland preservation ordinances to ensure your woodlands will be eligible for a $7.50/acre (or more) tax credit.
 
 
Council on Forestry to Discuss MFL Revisions
 
Discussions with the full Council on Forestry regarding the MFL are scheduled for Friday, February 1 in Madison.  Previously postponed COF agenda items will be discussed on Thursday, January 31. 
 
Items related to MFL include recommendations from the MFL task force, previous legislative council study committee recommendations and DNR considerations.  Other items listed for discussion include options on how to prevent splitting of parcels and putting them into different LLCs to get around the 160 closed acres limitation. 
 
To see the agenda and background information discussion go to:
 
http://council.wisconsinforestry.org/meetings.php
 
BOTTOM LINE:  Revisions to the MFL are still being debated.  If you feel changes are needed to the MFL it is important to let your legislators know that.
 
  
WWOA Reaffirms Positions on Changes Needed to the MFL
 
•     Taxation of MFL Land - Taxation of woodlands enrolled in MFL needs to be based on its use value.  Taxes need to be at a level that encourages landowners to remove cattle from woodlands and to restore marginal farmland to forest while still ensuring that forest lands pay a fair share of local taxes for services received. 
 
 •        Regulatory Certainty and Consistency - Use contracts to provide a landowner with assurances that the long-term agreement they sign will not be unilaterally changed during the agreement period or allow them to leave the program without penalty. 
 
 •     Taxes on Timber Harvested - Yield taxes, if any, should be set at a simple 5% of income received to minimize unnecessary administrative costs.
 
  •  Enrollment Costs -  Costs and requirements to re-enter lands into the MFL are inappropriate for forest lands previously being managed under an approved plan.
 
•     Economic Considerations -  Allow more flexibility and other economic considerations on when timber needs to be harvested. 
 
*   Adding Additional Land - Land added to existing contracts should be taxed at rates associated with the property it is added to.
 
BOTTOM LINE:   WWOA will continue to work with legislators and others to update the MFL.  
 
 
Legislative Committee Assignments Made: WWOA Members Meet with Legislators; Information Packets Delivered to 50 Key Legislators
 
Paul Kienitz set up a meeting to brief his newly elected senator Jerry Petrowski.  Senator Petrowski spent an hour with WWOA discussing various woodland owner issues.  Senator Petrowski has been appointed to the Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism, a Senate Committee which will likely see several bills that affect Wisconsin's tree farmers.
 
Another 50 legislators, listed below, who are on committees that will likely hear bills of interest to forest land owners received informational packets.

To find your legislators and what their committee assignments are, go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/default.aspx 
 
Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining, and Revenue
 
 •         Senator Tiffany (Chair)  R, Hazelhurst
 •         Senator Darling (Vice-Chair)  R, River Hills
 •         Senator Grothman  R, West Bend
 •         Senator Jauch  D, Poplar
 •         Senator Lehman  D, Racine
 
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism
 
 •         Senator Moulton (Chair)  R, Chippewa Falls
 •         Senator Tiffany (Vice-Chair)  R, Hazelhurst
 •         Senator Harsdorf  R, River Falls
 •         Senator Petrowski  R, Marathon
 •         Senator Schultz  R, Richland Center
 •         Senator Vinehout  D, Alma
 •         Senator Hansen  D, Green Bay
 •         Senator Lassa  D, Stevens Point
 •         Senator Taylor  D, Milwaukee
 
Senate Committee on Natural Resources
 
•         Senator Kedzie (Chair)  R, Elkhorn
•         Senator Moulton (Vice-Chair)  R, Chippewa Falls
•         Senator Tiffany  R, Hazelhurst
•         Senator Miller  D, Monona
•         Senator Wirch  D, Pleasant Prairie
 
Assembly Committee on Environment and Forestry
 
•         Representative Mursau (Chair)  R, Crivitz
•         Representative Krug (Vice-Chair)  R, Nekoosa
•         Representative Czaja  R, Irma
•         Representative Loudenbeck  R, Clinton
•         Representative Stroebel  R, Saukville
•         Representative Danou  D, Trempealeau
•         Representative Milroy  D, South Range
•         Representative Clark  D, Baraboo
 
Assembly Committee on Agriculture
 
•         Representative Nerison (Chair)  R, Westby
•         Representative Tauchen (Vice-Chair)  R, Bonduel
•         Representative Marklein  R, Spring Green
•         Representative Ott  R, Forest Junction
•         Representative Murtha  R, Baldwin
•         Representative Mursau  R, Crivitz
•         Representative Ripp  R, Lodi
•         Representative Tranel  R, Cuba City
•         Representative Brooks  R, Reedsburg
•         Representative Schraa  R, Oshkosh
•         Representative Vruwink  D, Milladore
•         Representative Jorgensen  D, Fort Atkinson
•         Representative Danou  D, Trempealeau
•         Representative Smith  D, Shell Lake
•         Representative Goyke  D, Milwaukee
•         Representative Wright  D, Wausau
 
Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage
 
•         Representative Ott (Chair)  R, Forest Junction
•         Representative Kleefisch (Vice-Chair)  R, Oconomowoc
•         Representative Born  R, Beaver Dam
•         Representative Bies  R, Sister Bay
•         Representative Williams  R, Medford
•         Representative Mursau  R, Crivitz
•         Representative Nerison R, Westby
•         Representative Petryk  R, Eleva
•         Representative Steineke  R, Vandenbroek
•         Representative Swearingen  R, Rhinelander
•         Representative Milroy  D, South Range
•         Representative Danou  D, Trempealeau
•         Representative Clark  D, Baraboo
•         Representative Hebl  D. Sun Prairie
•         Representative Shankland  D, Stevens Point
•         Representative Hesselbein  D, Middleton
 
BOTTOM LINE:   Unless you're legislator knows about your concerns, he or she cannot help solve the problems private woodland owners face. 
 
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November 15, 2012 Update

 

In This Update:

Lands Enrolled in the MFL after the Year 2004 will see a 27% increase in Taxes

New Data Shows Property Tax Assessments Out of Line

Value of Forest Land Decreases, Agricultural Land Increases

Governor Walker to Introduce State Budget in January

Follow-up on Deer Report

Council on Forestry Debates Managed Forest Law

WWOA Responds

Briefing Papers Released

Set Up Meetings with your Legislator

Important Resources to Understand Property Taxes

 

Lands Enrolled in the MFL after the Year 2004 will see a 27% increase in Taxes

 

In a memo dated October 23, 2012, the Department of Revenue notified the DNR that taxes, (acreage shares), would increase from $8.37/acre to $10.68/acre for lands closed to public access. 

 

As noted in the memo these calculations are based upon changes made to the MFL law in 2005 that allowed rates to be re-evaluated on a periodic basis.

 

Here is DOR’s notification to DNR of rate changes. 

 

DATE:            October 23, 2012                                                                   

TO:                  Kathryn Nelson (DNR)       

FROM:           Stan Hook                 

 

SUBJECT:     2013 Managed Forest Law (MFL) Acreage Share Rates

 

Per sec. 77.84 (2)(cm), Wis. Stats., the Department of Revenue, State and Local Finance Division, Local Government Service Bureau has calculated the new MFL Acreage Share Rates effective for assessment year 2013.  The new rates are:

 

1.    Managed Forest Acres Entered Before 2005 (old)

 

a.   Open = $0.79 per acre

b.   Closed = $1.87 per acre

c.   DNR Share = $1.08 per acre

 

2.    Managed Forest Acres Entered After 2004 (new)

 

a.   Open = $2.14 per acre

b.   Closed = $10.68 per acre

c.   DNR Share = $8.54 per acre

 

For more information on these rate changes along with updated tables on the yield taxes landowners must pay when harvesting timber, go to:

 

http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestLandowners/taxRates.html

 

As noted in the DOR correspondence, the majority of taxes paid on MFL closed lands, now $8.54/acre, currently go directly to the DNR.  Last year the DNR received $4,969,598 from this tax which currently goes into the DNR’s Forestry Account.  To see a complete summary of DNR’s Revenue/Expenditure summary that was recently provided to the Council on Forestry, go to:  

 

http://council.wisconsinforestry.org/pdf/FY11RevenueExpendituresDRAFT.pdf

 

 

New Data Shows Property Tax Assessments Out of Line

 

Following a request by the Wisconsin Woodland Owners, the Department of Revenue (DOR) provided summary information on how property taxes on “open space land” have changed over the past 16 years. 

 

Taxes on productive forest classified lands have increased from $7.78/acre in 1995 to $32.55/acre in 2011.  This compares to taxes on other agricultural land which decreased from $15.23/acre in 1995 to $3.32/acre in 2012, a level closer to the true cost of servicing these lands. County Use Data 2005-12

 

In a separate analysis, the DOR also provided county by county data showing how the acreages of taxable open land have changed over the past 7 years.  This spread sheet also provides data on land enrolled in special tax programs (MFL and Forest Crop). Taxable Open Space Lands 1995-2012

 

BOTTOM LINE: This information is useful in situations where local officials are critical of land being enrolled in MFL, thus reducing their tax roll.  For example, ask local officials if they know how many acres of land in their town are classified as Agricultural and are getting taxed at $3/acre.  The numbers are often very surprising.

 

 

Value of Forest Land Decreases, Agricultural Land Increases

 

In its July 2012 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided statewide summary data on various categories of farm and forest land sales.  In 2011 the average sales price of agricultural land was $4,332/acre (up 10% from 2010).  The average sale price of forest land was $2006/acre (down 3% from 2010). The entire USDA report can be found at:   WI 2011 Agricultural land prices from USDA

 

BOTTOM LINE: Forest land property values are decreasing. Property taxes have a strong effect on what land is worth. The higher the property taxes are, the less likely people are to buy new land. Property taxes have a significant effect on market values.

 

 

Governor Walker to Introduce State Budget in January

 

State agencies have submitted their biennial budget requests to the Department of Administration.  The Governor and his staff are now in the process of developing this major piece of law to be introduced to the full legislature sometime in January.  WWOA has asked that the Governor’s office consider introducing legislation that would provide tree farmers more flexibility in managing their lands that are enrolled in the MFL.  Letter can be found at:  Gov Walker Request on MFL Leasing

 

BOTTOM LINE: Rescinding the leasing ban will allow landowners to obtain revenue other than just when timber is sold. Tell the Governor this today! http://walker.wi.gov/contact-us

 

 

Follow-up on Deer Report

 

One of the key recommendations made by Dr. James Kroll was implementation of a Deer Management Area Program (DMAP).  How such a program would work in Wisconsin was the subject of a recent conference call with Gary Alt, one of Dr. Kroll’s team members.    You can find the minutes of this discussion by clicking here:  Deer Report – Implementation Discussion

 

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re interested in discussions on how new deer regulations are being evaluated for implementation in Wisconsin, these minutes provide insight into current thinking.

 

 

Council on Forestry Debates Managed Forest Law

 

WWOA is participating in discussions with Council on Forestry members related to the MFL.  A sub-committee presented information it had discussed at earlier meetings.  Issues discussed included 1) provide a tax rate compatible to that on other agricultural land, 2) repeal of the leasing ban, 3) simplify the MFL by separating structures from MFL agreements and allow simpler splits in ownership, 4) eliminate or change the yield tax, 5) provide a different level of oversight for lands under a separate, third party certification, 6) write contracts as opposed to DNR orders, 7) reduce the excessively high exit/conversion fees.

 

Other items discussed included biomass harvesting guidelines, education updates, annosum guidelines, and DNR’s draft revenue/expenditure report for the previous year. This document and complete council meeting minutes can be found at the Council’s website.  http://council.wisconsinforestry.org/pdf/COFMeetingMinutes09272012.pdf

 

BOTTOM LINE: Legislators need to continue to be told how important revising the MFL is to landowners. WWOA continues to be an active participant in this conversation. 

 

 

WWOA Responds

 

Recent newspaper articles that contained misleading and incomplete information on forested land required a WWOA response.  The Price County Daily News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both characterized the Managed Forest Law as a vehicle through which tree farmers received huge property tax breaks.  Part of our responses focused on the fact that forest lands require only a minimal amount of public services, specifically, police and fire protection along with road maintenance.   With estimated costs of providing these services being $2/acre or less, forest land owners are more accurately providing subsidies, not receiving huge tax breaks. 

 

WWOA’s responses are available here:  Price County Daily News response

                                                                           Milwaukee Journal Sentinel response

 

BOTTOM LINE: Press should be encouraged to report all sides of the story fairly, including woodland owner perspective in regards to taxes.

 

 

Briefing Papers Released

 

To broaden the understanding of how Wisconsin’s current property tax system is structured, we have developed a series of fact sheets designed to bring attention to inequities and challenges facing tree farmers so as to be able to continue to provide raw materials for our forest products industry, not to mention the many environmental benefits a wooded landscape provides.  The first two briefing papers will be distributed to various media outlets.  Please feel free to distribute them as well.  Legislators, in particular, need to understand the difficulties tree farmers currently face.

 

These briefing papers can be found here:  WWOA Briefing #1 – Tree Planting

                                                                                WWOA Briefing #2 – Property Taxes & Forests

                                                                                 

BOTTOM LINE: A broader public understanding of the benefits of woodlands and how they are currently taxed is needed. These briefing papers are a step in that direction.

 

 

Set Up Meetings with your Legislator

 

MOST IMPORTANT:  Contact your legislators!  With new redistricting things may have changed.  To see who your legislators are go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/waml/waml.aspx

 

 

Important Resources to Understand Property Taxes

 

See how your town compares.  This link provides information, on a town by town basis, of the acres and value of land in your town.  It can be valuable to point out to town officials how forest land is taxed compared to other land classifications.  http://www.revenue.wi.gov/equ/2011/soa.html

 

 This excellent DOR publication describes how various lands are classified and taxed.  For example, it explains the criteria needed for your woodland to meet the Agricultural Forest classification which is taxed at 50% of value.  http://www.revenue.wi.gov/pubs/slf/pb061.pdf

 

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July 19 Update

 

In This Update:

Final Deer Trustee Report Released

Gov Affairs Meeting Recap

Make Your Voice Heard! Capitol Tour at WWOA Annual Meeting

Council on Forestry & DNR Updates

WWOA "In the News"

Update on Farm Bill

 

Final Deer Trustee Report Released

The Final Report and Recommendations on deer management in Wisconsin, prepared by Dr. James Kroll, Dr. David Guynn, and Dr. Gary Alt, was completed and is available at the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s web page at www.doa.wi.gov

 

This report is packed with information and is a valuable resource on a variety of topics.  Woodland owners are encouraged to take some extra time and read through this report.  Skimming only certain topics would not do it justice.  Notwithstanding that word of caution, the report identifies that private landowners have not been given adequate consideration from a technical guidance perspective, stemming from a mindset that the function of DNR is regulation, not facilitation of deer management. 

 

The authors note that the DNR’s Forestry Division is fully capable and more than willing to aid in making habitat assessments and developing management plans but that they have not been adequately involved.  It notes that DNR forester’s, who work with 9,000 landowners each year, could be used to develop forest regeneration metrics to define impacts of deer herbivory on regeneration and biodiversity. 

 

Of special interest is a recommendation that a Deer Management Assistance Program be established.  This concept would have landowners developing deer management plans and then be eligible for antlerless deer tags for specific lands.  WWOA’s Wildlife and Government Affairs Committee are soliciting comments on the report.  We will work with the DNR as they look at how they’ll pursue recommendations made in this report response.   

 

ANNUAL MEETING BONUS:  For those interested in deer management, Kevin Wallenfang, Wisconsin DNR’s big game ecologist, will be discussing this report and DNR’s deer management perspectives at the upcoming Annual Meeting.

 

Gov Affairs Meeting Recap

A meeting of the Government Affairs Committee was held on Wednesday, March 21 in Portage Wisconsin.  

 

WWOA’s position on changes needed to the MFL was reviewed.  In addition to re-affirming those described in our SB 161 position paper, the committee recommended that consideration be given to elimination of the yield tax and that changes be made to withdrawal penalties which are excessively high.   These recommendations will be used for discussion with the Council on Forestry’s MFL committee.

 

Other recommendations were to:  work more closely with the Department of Agriculture to allow more woodland owners to be eligible for farmland preservation tax credits; set up meetings with the Farm Bureau to develop a strategy for dealing with woodland taxes; work with the Consulting Foresters Association to develop template/bullet points for items to be covered in a contract; put together a magazine article on appeal options available for woodland owners who disagree with a DNR forester;  and consider having another magazine article on the fencing law. 

 

Bob Mather, DNR’s Director of the Bureau of Forest Management provided information on appeal options available to landowners under the MFL that go beyond going through the supervisory chain of command.  Specifically he mentioned using the contested case (no fee) procedure available to anyone who has a disagreement with a DNR decision.  Landowners put together an informational package and file it with the DNR, requesting a contested case hearing.  This packet is then turned over to a Department of Justice Administrative Law Judge who hears the case and rules up, down, or modifies the DNR’s decision.  

 

Bob identified that the DNR’s Forestry Account is currently spending $8M more than is coming in.  It is still workable given the large number of vacancies and decreases in costs associated with changes in collective bargaining but it will be running a deficit in 2014.  There currently are 215 foresters, 80-90 field foresters working with private woodland owners and a total of 70 vacancies in the division.  Funds received from the forestry property mil tax are down since overall state property values have decreased 2.3% last year.  There currently is $110M in expenditures and $84M in mil tax income.  $4.9M currently comes into the DNR from the $6/acre fee assessed for closed MFL acres enrolled post 2005. 

 

President Joe Arington identified concerns with the Farm Bill currently being debated by Congress.  Issues included changing the Farm Bill’s Energy Title to ensure traditional wood products are defined as renewable, bio-based products. He also noted that the $5M estate tax exemption is about to expire.

 

The desire to have a separate, statewide, political action arm was again discussed.  Private woodland owners currently do not have the voice and effectiveness they need.

 

Make Your Voice Heard! Capitol Tour at WWOA Annual Meeting

Attend the WWOA Annual Meeting this August and have the opportunity to meet with your legislator and aides to discuss private forestry issues!

 

On Friday, August 24, meeting attendees can tour the Capitol building and meet with Paul Heinen, WDNR legislative liasion. Learn how to make your voice heard when it comes to policy affecting landowners! Attendees will receive a "discussion paper" of WWOA talking points and will have the opportunity to voice their concerns directly to their representatives or staff. The tour also includes a stop at the Madison Children's Museum and other Capitol Square attractions. 

 

For more information about the Annual Meeting, click here


 

Council on Forestry & DNR Updates 

Will Kiefer (WWOA’s NW Chapter President) and Rudy Nigl attended the June 21st meeting held in Ashland. 

 

DNR provided information on their “Strategic Direction Program Business Plans.”  This is the follow-up to implement priorities identified in the Division of Forestry’s May 2011 Strategic Plan.  For Private Forestry, one of the eight forestry programs identified in the plan, an “Outcomes” priority list was presented.   Eighteen outcomes were listed in order of priority beginning with “Increased and improved communication to private landowners to increase awareness in forest management services available, public and private benefits of forest lands and how nontraditional partners can help.”  Second was to increase initial DNR contacts with private landowners.  That was followed by better communication, then get more private forest lands under sustainable management, etc.  Detailed information is available on the DNR’s website.  (WWOA’s letter to DNR on workload priorities and DNR’s response is available here.)

 

Paul DeLong presented information on how the DNR is proposing to review Forest Certification.  He provided information on the new DNR forestry supervisory organizational structure that breaks the state down into 11 different forestry areas.  He also provided information on a study that a MN based contractor, Dovetail Partners, Inc. has begun.  This contract will look at how DNR can spent less time administering the MFL, how consistency in implementation can be improved, how the DNR can ensure MFL lands are sustainably managed, how a customer feedback loop can be established to ensure satisfaction, and to provide the DNR with a clear understanding of how customers perceive activities and practices the DNR does. 

 

On MFL, The WWOA chaired subcommittee met and went over the current state of property taxation in Wisconsin.  Developing a common understanding of Wisconsin’s property taxation system is an important starting point for putting taxation of MFL lands into perspective.  Members of the committee are Richard Wedepohl, Chair, Mark Sherman  (Plum Creek), Kim Quast (Consulting Foresters), Virgil Waugh (Home Construction),  Representative Jeff Mursau, Troy Brown (Kretz Lumber), and Tom Hittle (Steigerwald).  Bob Mather is DNR’s liaison and Mark Paulat represented the Department of Revenue.  

 

WWOA "In the News"

WWOA member Ann Larkin Hansen is developing a series of press releases (Briefing Papers) designed to capture attention and get recognition of the problems Wisconsin woodlands face. 

 

Briefing #1 is on how landowners are penalized for planting trees and that property taxes have increased over 400% since 1995.   Briefing #2 provides examples of how adjacent properties are taxed very differently.  Briefing # 3 summarizes an article written for the Minnesota Forestry Association’s newsletter that described Wisconsin’s tax laws.  Briefings under development will describe problems with MFL and real life stories of tree farmers who no longer are able to maintain their woodlands.   

 

Discussion is ongoing on when and how these briefing papers should be released but we definitely do want them to be available for discussion at the Annual Meeting.   

 

Farm Bill Updates

Congress is currently debating re-authorization of the farm bill.  WWOA has been supporting efforts made by the American Forest Foundation.  The following update was contributed by Christine Cadigan, Public Affairs Manager with the American Forest Foundation.

 

The House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill with a 35-11 vote. For the most part, forest and conservation programs look similar to the Senate's bill. And in certain programs, thanks to all your hard work and outreach, we made even better headway.

 

The House's Farm Bill includes...

- changes to the Biobased Markets Program clearly and specifically include all forest products in the program, which will open up new potential market opportunities for forest owners.

- the Beginning Farmer and Rancher program specifically lists nonindustrial private forest landowners as eligible recipients of program opportunities.

- more money for pest and disease control.

 

Similar to the Senate version, the House Farm Bill also...

- Improves forest owner access to conservation tools and programs.

- Maintains support for research and cooperative extension programs.

- Strengthens the direction for forest inventory and analysis programs, providing market and forest health trends.

 

We are particularly excited to see a fix to the Biobased Markets Program that will open up new market opportunities for forest owners. Please take a moment to thank your members who cosponsored the Forest Products Fairness Act, bringing this important issue to the attention of the Agriculture Committees.

 

Senate Co-sponsors

House Co-sponsors

 

Following the bill passage through the House Agriculture Committee, Committee members will encourage the bill to be considered on the full House floor in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for more updates on this process. In the meantime, the Senate and House Farm bills can both be considered a big win for family forest owners.

 

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February 27 Update

 

In This Update:

    State Income Taxes Reminder
     Recap of SB161 Hearing
     Sub-Committee Formed to Study MFL Program
     Ag Day at the Capitol
     Recap of joint DATCP/DNR Meeting 

 

State Income Taxes Reminder

Many woodland owners have missed opportunities to claim farmland preservation credits. For this tax break forestry is defined as an agricultural use and can be eligible for these state tax credits. 

 

To find out if you’re eligible for a tax credit of $7.50/acre or more, first you need to contact your county land conservation department to see if your land is appropriately zoned. Eligibility requirements include income thresholds. You might also have to obtain a certificate from your county land conservation department stating you meet minimum land conservation criteria.  

 

Almost every woodlot meets conservation requirements.  However, many woodland owners often believe they do not meet the income requirements because they haven’t sold any timber to meet the $6000/year ($18,000 over 3 years) requirement. Don’t forget that if you rent land, the income generated by that land can help you meet this threshold. 

 

For example, if you rent 10 acres of corn land to a neighbor, you will easily meet this criteria (10 acres x 150 bushels/acre x $6/bushel = $9000).  For more information you can go to Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s FAQ page and to the Department of Agriculture’s news release on this subject. 

 

Woodland Owners Dominate SB161 Hearing But Are Not Listened To

Tree farmers were heard but not listened to. In a full hearing room on February 9th, the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Higher Education Committee heard 2 hours of testimony on SB 161, the bill introduced as a result of a legislative study committee on updating the MFL.  

 

WWOA testified that, although there are some good components, this bill needs further work. Of special concern was that the proposed bill would increase the tax paid by many landowners entering the MFL and that it did not address many issues we had highlighted as being problems, such as “contracts versus agreements,” yield taxes and others.

 

Thanks to Joe Arington, John Czerwonka, Doug Duren, Gene Roark, Rudy and Mike Nigl, Lowell Klessig, Bob Weiland and others who testified on this bill. Thanks also to Steve Stevenson, Merlin Becker, Nancy Bozek, John and Sally Ouellette and others on this effort.  

 

Note:  WWOA’s testimony and other information on this bill can be found on this page, under "Additional Resources."

 

Unfortunately, at a February 23 meeting, the Committee chaired by Dale Schultz voted to move this bill out of committee without addressing any of the concerns expressed by WWOA. It is clear we need to do more to get our legislators to understand the importance of updating MFL. Whether this bill will be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate is unknown. It is still possible for the Senate to amend thsi bill should it be scheduled for a floor debate. A companion bill in the Assembly has not had any hearings scheduled to date.

 

Legislators need to be contacted on this issue. Please contact your legislators and tell them the Managed Forest Law needs to be changed. Private woodland owners need to have an option, other than putting forests back into corn, beans or pasture, which allows them to be able to afford to grow timber, timber desperately needed by our forest products industry. 

 

For more information on contacting your legislators, click here

 

Other bills: SB126 (Nancy Livingston's bill) passed out of committee but has not been scheduled for a hearing by Senate leadership. The bottom line on this and other bills is that legislators need to continually hear from woodland owners. 

 

Sub-Committee Formed to Study MFL Program

Even if no action is taken this session on SB161 and AB402, work to improve the Managed Forest Law will continue. At its first full meeting February 15th, Chairman Henry Schienebeck established a sub-committee to provide recommendations on improving the managed forest law. Richard Wedepohl (WWOA) will work to set up this group.  Members expressing an interest to participate included Representative Jeff Mursau, Mark Sherman (Plum Creek), Kimberly Quast (Consultant Forester), Troy Brown (Kretz Lumber), James Hoppe (pulp and paper), Tom Hittle (Society of Foresters). Other interest groups and DNR staff will also participate.  

 

Other discussions at the meeting highlighted the importance of working with private landowners to obtain needed material for the forest products industry. There is interest in seeing what’s learned with the driftless area project. Some of the industry representatives said they’re having difficulty finding wood, such as soft maple. 

 

On the other side, it was pointed out that some consultants have been having trouble finding buyers for their sales.  Red oak is an example, with a “temporary” glut on the market, related to some China interactions.

 

Other issues discussed included the problems with fragmentation, problems with economies of scale, getting agreements made, costs associated with establishing boundaries, winter only harvesting, etc.

 

There was discussion on the biomass harvesting guidelines. Bill Horvath provided much needed input on past work on this and how biomass harvesting guidelines could affect landowners in the MFL. Currently this effort is still in the study phase. Whether they become mandatory practices or are used more simply as “planning considerations,” remains to be seen.   

 

Ag Day at the Capitol

Discussions at the Farm Bureau-sponsored Ag Day emphasized the importance of telling legislators that continuing use-value assessment is important, despite the fact there are no bills pending.  Other issues included raising weight limits for manure haulers, supporting the relaxed wetland bill and supporting a hunting season on wolves and sandhill cranes.

 

Recap of Joint DATCP/DNR Meeting

The DNR and Department of Agriculture Boards held a joint meeting on February 21st where information was presented on Chronic Wasting Disease, Farmland Preservation, Nutrient Management, and Spray Irrigation of Manure, followed by board member discussions.  An observation:  The term “working lands” was often used in dialogue, but the discussions did not  talk about, or address, issues facing Wisconsin’s tree farmers.    

 

 



 

January 23 Update

 

In This Update: 

      Status of Legislation
       Stakeholder Meeting with Dr. James Kroll (deer trustee)
       Ag Day at the Capitol
       What Others are Saying 

 

Status of Legislation

SB 126 – The Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Higher Education Committee, Chaired by Senator Dale Schultz, held a hearing on this bill January 10. SB 126 was introduced by Senator Julie Lassa after a fire destroyed much of WWOA member Nancy Livingston’s tree farm. The bill is intended to offer some relief for those who experience catastrophic losses by extending the time period for payment of yield taxes and allowing a landowner to extend their current MFL agreement by 10 years.

 

This bill offered us an opportunity to testify in front of the same committee which has SB 161 assigned to it. Following testimony by Senator Lassa, WWOA members Merlin Becker, Gene Roark and Richard Wedepohl testified in support of this bill. We also offered suggestions that the bill could be simplified by allowing more land to be kept in the MFL. The bill was amended and somewhat simplified. On January 20th the committee unanimously passed the bill out of committee. It is now available for scheduling for a vote by the full senate.

 

A thank you has been sent to the members of this committee (Senators Schultz, Harsdorf, Kedzie, Moulton, Hansen, Shilling, and King).

 

SB 161 and AB 402 – No hearings have been scheduled. WWOA is working with the Great Lakes Timber Producers and Lake States Lumber Association on how we hope this bill proceeds.

 

Stakeholder Meeting with Dr. James Kroll (deer trustee)

On January 11th, WWOA members Dave Hall and Dale Zaug attended a stakeholders meeting with Dr. Kroll and two colleagues, deer biologists Gary Alt from Pennsylvania and Daniel Guynn from South Carolina.

 

During this all-day meeting, attended by over a dozen different hunting and timber production groups, Dr. Kroll explained the process they’ll follow with a preliminary report due in March and the final report due in June. He also indicated he was honored to have this opportunity and said he would continue to follow this effort after the report is finished.

 

Discussion ranged widely given the different perspectives of the group present. Everyone was heard and dialogue was courteous amongst attendees. We talked about having the need to control deer populations where they became a problem. We also emphasized the importance of active forest management that also provides better deer habitat. WWOA will provide follow-up information to Dr. Kroll and continue to be involved with this effort. Click here to visit the Dr. Deer website

 

Ag Day at the Capitol on Feb. 8

Tree farmers should consider attending this event. Ag Day at the Capitol will be held February 8 at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Ag Day at the Capitol is the largest gathering of farmers from across the state representing a variety of farm groups to learn more about state issues and meet with their state legislators. Hot topics on the legislative plate are expected to be agricultural economic development, use value as-sessment of farmland, animal welfare and environmental issues according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Register for Ag Day by calling the Wisconsin Farm Bureau at 1-800-261-3276. More information available here

 

What Others are Saying

Hot legislative topics and WWOA's active role in the discussion is generating more discussion. See below for comments from WWOA members Fritz Corsemeier and Doug Duren.

 

- Corsmeier comment: "Thank you for the update regarding the Government Affairs section. As a woodland owner I am particularly interested in forest land taxation as compared to taxation of other agriculture lands. With dairy and grain farmers paying from $0.57 to $4.73 per acre for land taxes, it is interesting to note that the representative of the state legislature could not explain why woodland owners pay from $24.00 to $75.00 per acre in taxes. Why are tree farmers treated differently than other farmers? If the general public was made aware of this disparity, and the issue was put to a statewide vote, I suspect the disparity would be quickly changed.

 

My contract in the MFL program ends as of December 31, 2011, and at age 75 I have elected to not renew the contract. My projected taxes for 2012 for a 40 acre parcel are $1600.00. Obviously it is not feasible to maintain a tree farm on this basis, particularly since my use of the property is limited to growing trees. (I do not use the property for recreation or hunting, but allow others to hunt on my property, particularly one wheelchair bound hunter.) At the present time my options are to hope for tax relief via the state legislature, or to clearcut the land and then sell the property. Having invested a considerable amount of personal time and effort to convert a property that had been abused into a productive woodlot, I am extremely reluctant to clearcut the land and then sell the property. If I could be treated for tax purposes in a manner corresponding to other farmers, the land will remain productive. The other options are very discouraging.

 

I trust that many other woodland owners are of a similar opinion. For those woodland owners who own property simply for recreational purposes such as hunting or snowmobiling, perhaps taxes are secondary issues. For those of us attempting to grow trees at a profit, there is a considerable amount of unfairness in the present situation. Tree farmers should pay a fair amount of tax as should other farmers. One group (tree farmers) should not be expected to subsidize another group (dairy and grain farmers).

 

Hopefully WWOA will take an aggressive role in addressing this inequity. Thank you for your help in addressing issues facing woodland owners." 

 

- Duren comment: "I think MFL is overall a good program and I’m glad to have land enrolled. The biggest objections I hear in my contact with landowners is the ”gun to the head” element regarding the use valuation tax structure and the property tax burden on productive woodlands. Unfortunately there is a perception with some that it is DNR’s fault that the property tax structure has changed so as to motivate (some say blackmail) woodland owners into signing up. Sigh, basic civics lessons are needed about who legislates and who administers. I do what I can to explain to other landowners the role of DNR vs. the legislature and the motivations and effort behind use valuation.

 

Because on our farm we have land that falls in almost all of the major rural tax classifications (Ag, Ag-forest, Ag/pasture, productive forest - now in MFL, other/residential) I feel like I can offer a somewhat balanced perspective.

 

Unfortunately, there are major issues with a tax classification structure that can encourage poor land management, but that is the case. For instance, I could clear cut parts of our woodland, plant corn or other crops, reduce the taxes to a couple dollars per acre on that new “Ag” land and change the classification of the rest from Productive to Ag Woodland. Or put a fence around it and pasture it. Believe me, we considered it, as I know others have and some did. Again, not the DNR’s fault, but frustrating and counterproductive none the less. The legislature seems unaware of these issues or unwilling to rectify the situation.

 

I disagree with some of my friends in the outdoor community, like the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, when it comes to public access to MFL lands and limits on the amount of land that can be “closed."

 

I don't buy the argument that because landowners, no matter how large, are enrolled in a program, like MFL, or any other program where the primary goal is conservation or sustainable forestry, etc. and are getting "benefit" from that enrollment, that land should be opened to mostly uncontrolled public access for any kind of recreation. I would clear cut and plant corn before I would allow uncontrolled public access. I can't name another program that requires the land be open or limits the amount of land that can be enrolled and closed. Why would a landowner give up property rights like that without a "gun to their head" (property tax relief)? I think the WWF is dead wrong if they are insisting that be part of conservation legislation. The VPA or something similar is the vehicle for encouraging more private land being opened. I know it's a federal program, but I have land in CRP that is paying over $80.00 per acre that is taxed at less than $3.00 per acre because its Ag land. I can restrict access to it and/or lease it out for hunting or any other recreation if I like, and I, as a landowner, retain property rights. Everyone wins. Seems pretty sensible and fair to me.

 

The rest of my premise is pretty straight forward: Allowing land owners enrolled in MFL (or any other program) to lease the hunting or other recreation rights does allow for limited public access. Leasing land is much more affordable than buying it, which gives a less expensive opportunity for quality hunting without the unknowns of completely open/public lands (I trust I don’t need to list those); the landowner gets to control the access to their land while “doing the right thing” by being enrolled in a sustainable management program; more taxable income is created.

 

I also think bigger issues are addressed: Parcelization of land and the resulting fractionalization of the large landscape features are encouraged by the restrictions on MFL “Closed” limits and leasing. The biggest landholders in the north woods outside of National State and County forests, are paper companies and the like. An additional revenue stream for them ( as is the case in many southern states ) could encourage them to keep large blocks of land; discourage parcelization and fractionalization; allow more public access and generate taxable revenue.” NOTE: Duren will be making a presentation at the Blackhawk Chapter Meeting, Thursday January 26, Cottage Grove.

 

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December 22 Update

 

In This Update:

Status of Pending Legislative Bills

Introduction of Assembly Bill 402

Bad Axe Chapter Meeting Recap

Woodland Advocate trip with Representative Mursau

Wisconsin Towns Association Meeting

Council on Forestry Meeting

New WI DNR Deer Czar

 

Status of Pendling Legislative Bills
SB 161 – No hearing has been set. Senator Schultz continues to express interest in hearing and understanding WWOA’s position on the bill. We’re suggesting a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly committees; given the limited understanding of MFL by some of the newer committee members, this could provide a good forum for clarification.

 

SB 126 and AB 342 – No action has been taken on either of these bills.  Since both involve MFL related issues, attention seems to be more focused the comprehensive revisions being proposed in SB 161 and AB 402.

 

To find more detail on these bills you can go to the Wisconsin Legislature’s home page.  There is also a free service available that will notify you anytime action is taken on a bill you want to follow.

 

Introduction of Assembly Bill 402

Assembly Bill 402, which is the companion bill to Senate Bill 161, was introduced on December 1st and referred to the Assembly Committee on Forestry.  Forestry Committee members are:

 

Jeffrey Mursau, Chair, Crivitz, (608) 266-3780, Rep.Mursau@legis.wisconsin.gov.

Thomas Tiffany, Vice-Chair, Hazelhurst, (608) 266-7694, Rep.Tiffany@legis.wisconsin.gov

Mary Williams, Medford, (608) 266-7506, Rep.WilliamsM@legis.wisconsin.gov

John Murtha, Baldwin, (608) 266-7683, Rep.Murtha@legis.wisconsin.gov

Nick Milroy, South Range, (608) 266-0640, Rep.Milroy@legis.wisconsin.gov

Janet Bewley, Ashland, (608) 266-7690, Rep.Bewley@legis.wisconsin.gov

 

This bill will follow a parallel path in the Assembly with SB 161 in the Senate.  Already some WWOA members have been in touch with their representatives regarding this Bill.  Special thank you to Will Kiefer – I received a phone call from Representative Bewley who asked several questions about woodland issues.   We’ll meet with her in the near future.

 

Bad Axe Chapter Meeting Recap

At the Bad Axe Chapter’s meeting November 5, WDNR Forestry Division Administrator Paul DeLong provided an excellent presentation on the importance of forestry to Wisconsin’s economy.  (We'll post DeLong's slides soon.)

Following his presentation, Paul DeLong, Senator Dale Schultz, and Representative Fred Clark sat on a panel and answered questions from WWOA members.  Having this type of direct interaction with legislators is critically important for furthering action on WWOA’s issues. 

 

Woodland Advocate visit with Representative Mursau

I recently had the opportunity to visit some beautiful land owned by Representative Jeff Mursau near Crivitz.  Jeff owns both wooded land (he’s working with a forester to help manage it) along with grass/shrub land that was classified as Forest rather an as Undeveloped by his assessor.   He’s also considering MFL but has yet to decide if any of it should be enrolled.  We toured his property and reviewed information from his tax bills to see if his land was correctly classified.   

 

Later that day at the Towns Association meeting (see below), I had a similar discussion with one of the Town Board representatives.  He indicated that he had wanted to enroll his “swamp” land in the MFL because it was taxed as Forest.  He was told by a DNR forester that it didn’t qualify because it could not produce the commercial forest products needed for entry.  Armed with information from the forester he may go back and contest this classification with his assessor, hopefully to see it more correctly identified as “Undeveloped.”  More information on this topic available here.

 

Wisconsin Towns Association Meeting

WWOA was invited by Rick Stadelman to attend the December 2 Wisconsin Towns Association Board meeting to discuss WWOA’s positions on MFL changes.  This meeting was very cordial and we had good discussions with the directors.  These town officials recognized the benefits provided by forests and are generally supportive of the need to keep Wisconsin’s woodlands well managed.

 

Since there has been some opposition in the past to the MFL by towns who fear land being taken off their tax rolls, I provided information on each of their towns on how much MFL affects their tax base.  (Information shared with town officials available here.)  When one looks at these numbers, almost always you’ll see that the land enrolled in MFL is very limited as compared to the other lands that receive a reduction in taxes.   In addition, taxes on forest land in these examples ranged from $24/acre to $75/acre.  This compares to taxes on agricultural land that ranged from $0.57/acre to $4.73/acre.  At the end of the meeting I asked this group “What do you tell a landowner who plants trees on marginal farmland that their property taxes will go up anywhere from 5 to 70 times?”   One representative responded saying, “That’s a problem, I don’t know the answer.”

 

 

Council on Forestry Meeting

On December 13, the newly appointed Council on Forestry held its first meeting.  We met in Minocqua in conjunction with the Governor’s Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit.  Thanks to support from WWOA and help from Bill Horvath, I agreed to serve as the private woodland owner’s representative on this committee.  Click here for Governor Walker’s press release on his appointments to this Council.

 

The agenda included updates from the DNR on biomass harvesting guidelines, forestry research, and Division of Forestry Strategic Ops plan.  An update on the NW storm recovery was provided.  The DNR’s perspective on this is that it is going fairly well at this time and that concerns related to “flooding the market” seem not to have materialized. 

 

To conclude the meeting we were all asked to provide ideas on priority issues and agenda items for the next meeting.  I handed out copies of WWOA’s position statement on SB 161 along with a copy of the Council on Forestry’s testimony provided to the Legislative Council Study on MFL.  I noted that WWOA identified similar issues as the Council and that many of these issues had not been addressed by the current version of pending bills in the legislature.

 

Dr Deer

Several contacts have been made with Dr. James Kroll (WDNR Deer Czar), who will be setting up meetings with landowners in January. Blackhawk chapter has offered to host one of these meetings. No further details are available at this time.   

 

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November 11 Update


In This Update:

DNR Forestry Operations Plan
Assembly Bill 342
Wisconsin Outdoor News Article on MFL

 


DNR Forestry Operations Plan
WDNR Forestry Division Administrator Paul DeLong has asked that we distribute the DNR's proposed operations plan to as many interested people as we can.  You can read the plan here.


DeLong is asking for responses by Nov 18.  We have not yet looked closely at this plan or developed a response.  One point of emphasis we’ve always had is supporting the need and importance of having field foresters being available to work with private woodland owners.  The plan has limited changes being made until more “program efficiencies” can be found.  


As you review the document, please keep the following questions in mind:


1. What work that is important to our ability to implement our Strategic Direction have we overlooked? Please explain why the work is important in your opinion.


2. Are there changes in how we are proposing to allocate resources that could better address the program intent statements outlined in the Strategic Direction? Please explain why you believe your suggestion for allocation is better than what is proposed.


3. Are there opportunities for increased efficiency and effectiveness in program implementation that we have overlooked? Please explain how your suggestion would increase efficiency and effectiveness.


Please send your responses to the above questions to Rebecca Gass, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707 or Rebecca.gass@wisconsin.gov by November 18th, 2011. If you send in comments, please copy me on those as well. Thanks.


Assembly Bill 342
A hearing was held on AB 342 on Tuesday, Nov 1.  This bill came up as a bit of a surprise to us but thanks to Nancy’s contacts with Tim Gary (staffer to Representative Jeff Mursau), we were able to provide testimony on this bill. 


Although it is a relatively minor bill in the big picture in that it proposes only to make some clarifications on building options available to landowners who enrolled land in MFL prior to 1998, it was important in that it gave WWOA some visibility. (Read the bill here.)


In the testimony we provided we were able to emphasize one issue we’ve identified as important – contracts versus agreements.  We emphasized that landowners who are entering the MFL need confidence that what they agree to when they sign up will honored and not arbitrarily changed by the legislature in the future without any recourse.   Our testimony, which we provided for informational purposes, can be found here.  I think it was well received and the committee is looking at making some changes to the bill in response.  We’ll keep you informed of any future actions.


The members of the Assembly Forestry Committee are: Representative Jeffrey Mursau, Chair (Crivitz), Tom Tiffany Vice-Chair (Hazelhurst), Mary Williams (Medford), John Murtha (Baldwin),  Nick Milroy (South Range, Douglas Co), and Janet Bewley (Ashland).  


Of special note, Representative Mursau chatted after the hearing, wanting to know about joining WWOA and asking questions about the MFL since he’s pondering entering some land he owns into the program!  Any WWOA members in his district who would like to help?  Let us know.


Wisconsin Outdoor News Article on MFL

In the October 7, 2011 issue of Wisconsin Outdoor News, there appeared an article written by Don Bluhm on Senate Bill 161.  In it, Don encouraged readers who hunt on MFL land to pay special attention to this bill given that it proposes to reverse the recent prohibition to leasing of lands enrolled in MFL.  In a follow-up phone conversation and email to Don, we emphasized, as Mark Rickenbach pointed out in the article, that the MFL is primarily a program that was designed to encourage timber production and the use of sound forestry practices. 


It’s clear there is not yet a broad understanding of the discrepancy in property taxes paid on forest land compared to agricultural land.  We need to continue to point out that there are 12.2 million acres of agricultural land that is taxed at $3/acre or less and there are no public access requirements or long term agreements associated with it.  Compare this to forest land that is taxed at an average of $34/acre, or $8/acre for land currently being enrolled in the MFL. 

 

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October 10 Update


In This Update:

Putting taxes into perspective
Members Continuing to make Contacts, More Needed
Discussions with Representative Fred Clark and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation's George Meyer


Putting Taxes into Perspective
Town officials have long been concerned with the MFL taking land off of the local property tax roles.  However, over the last 10 years the landscape has changed dramatically and now taxes on forestland greatly exceed those being paid on other rural lands.  


Working with the Wisconsin Towns Association is critical to putting together changes to the MFL.   With help from Howard Garves, WWOA member and Chairman of the Town of Sparta, we were extended an opportunity by Rick Stadelman to meet with the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Towns Association on December 2.   Finding ways to balance taxes with services received is critical to maintaining a vibrant forest industry in this state.    


To see data on taxes for your town, go to the Wisconsin Department of Revenues home page.  Click on “Reports” in the left hand side column.  Then click on “Assessment”.  Next click on “Statement of Assessments – 2010” .  Click on your county and then scroll down to find your town.  Click here for a direct link.  


For example, in Iowa County, Town of Arena, there are 2922 acres of forest that has a total assessed value of $10,133,000.  (This works out to forest land being valued and taxed at $3468/acre).   As a comparison, the 25,184 acres of agricultural land has a total assessed value of $4,312,100 (Taxed as if it is worth $171/acre).


What we’re trying to do with this information is to help people understand how MFL fits into the big picture.  Town officials are usually aware of land being put in MFL but do not always have the details of how it directly affects their finances.  Unfortunately some town officials have incorrectly stated in the past that lands in MFL are causing significant decreases in their tax base.   SB 161 also proposes some changes on how “closure fees” are distributed, something that could help local governments.  


Members Continuing to make Contacts, More Needed 
Steven & Lois Raether, thank you for contacting Senator Terry Moulton and having him attend the annual meeting.  Not only did he add much to the banquet, he also accepted Jim Zdanovec’s invitation to become a new WWOA member.  Terry said he is now looking forward to meeting with a forester to review management opportunities with the 300 acres of woodland he owns in the Eau Claire area. 


Thanks to WWOA’s Bad Axe Chapter members, Senator Dale Schultz has indicated he will be attending the chapter’s annual meeting on November 5.  Also attending  are Paul DeLong and Representative Fred Clark. 


Although Senator Schultz has a great deal of interest and understanding of woodland issues, he needs support from the other members of his committee.  They need to know about WWOA’s concerns and what changes we’d like to see with the MFL and other legislative issues. 


At this point in the legislative process, contacting the committee members below is essential.  We need WWOA members to help!  If you live in or own woodland in any of these senator’s districts, PLEASE consider contacting them.


Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Higher Education – The Key Players:    

Dale Schultz, Chair, Richland Center, (608) 266-0703, email Sen.Schultz@legis.wisconsin.gov;
Sheila Harsdorf, Vice-Chair, River Falls, phone (608) 266-7745, email Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov
Neal Kedzie, Elkhorn, (608) 266-2635, email Sen.Kedzie@legis.wisconsin.gov;
Terry Moulton, Chippewa Falls, (608) 266-7511, email Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov
Dave Hansen, Green Bay, (608) 266-5670, email Sen.Hansen@legis.wisconsin.gov;
Jennifer Shilling, LaCrosse, (608) 266-5490, email Sen.Shilling@legis.wisconsin.gov
Jessica King, Oshkosh, (608) 266-5300, email Sen.Shilling@legis.wisconsin.gov
Note:  Jim Holperin and Kathleen Vinehout are no longer on this committee, being replaced by Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King. 


Click here to see what areas their districts cover, then click on their name (for legislative information) to learn details. Email is an easy way to contact these Senators.   Let them know you are a private woodland owner who is concerned about upcoming legislation.  Of course, an even better way is to talk to them while you’re taking a walk through your woods with them and a forester! 


When contacting them by email or letter, consider attaching WWOA’s Position Statement on SB 161.  And if you do make contacts, let  Gene, Joe, or I know.  We can easily stop in their Madison office to provide follow-up information and to get to know them and their staff better.   


Discussions with Representative Fred Clark and George Meyer
Recently Government Affairs committee chairs Gene Roark and Richard Wedepohl met with Representative Fred Clark. Fred was the initial chair of the MFL study committee from which Senate Bill 161 evolved.  Fred expressed some concerns about whether or not changes to the proposed legislation could be done.  He recognized that some of WWOA’s positions on the MFL such as “Agreements versus Contracts” and Re-enrollment of Expiring Lands in MFL had merit.  His suggestion was that follow-up legislation could be introduced to address these concerns.  We hope that WWOA’s recommendations can be addressed with a substitute amendment to SB 161. 


George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, also met with the WWOA Government Affairs Committee recently. George went over our position statement and was generally supportive.  His group historically has had concerns related to open and closed land from a public access perspective.  We emphasized that just because land may be enrolled in the closed category of MFL, doesn’t mean it is not used by others, often heavily, for hunting and other outdoor recreation.  Most woodland owners allow others to use their lands but they do want some control over their property’s use.


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September 10 Update


In This Update:

Senator Terry Moulton to Attend WWOA's Meeting!
Disappointing State Journal Article  


Senator Terry Moulton to Attend WWOA’s Meeting!
Thanks to Lois and Steve Raether for contacting this key committee member.  Terry has agreed to provide a welcome prior to the banquet at 6pm on Friday. What Senator Moulton hears from us will be relayed back to Dale Schultz and others on his committee.  This first meeting with WWOA will carry a lot of weight.


Yesterday we met with Senator Moulton’s chief of staff Nate Duerkop to go over the meeting and WWOA’s issues.  We were very impressed with Nate and am sure Senator Moulton will be well briefed. 


Disappointing State Journal Article 

Read the article here. Although we had met with Representative Fred Clark three weeks ago and provided him with WWOA’s positions on the bill, we obviously still have some work to do.  We sent Fred an email this morning alerting him not to get to far out in front of this since there’s some significant issues needing change with this bill.  George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, was quoted in this article as well. 


There is a belief out there that woodland owners are getting this huge tax break.  WOODLAND OWNERS WHO ENTER THE MFL ARE NOT GETTING A HUGE TAX BREAK.   Once people seriously look at the table attached to our position statement, things become more clear.  Wisconsin woodlands cannot compete with agricultural crop lands where taxes are 1/10th those off woodland.  Obviously we must continue to stress that point.


Loren Hanson, Joe Arington, Gene Roark and Richard Wedepohl will be meeting with George Meyer of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation next week to go over our positions.  Public access to woodlands has been a key issue for George.  We’ll stress the fact that, again, there needs to be equity with croplands and pastured woodlands where there are huge tax breaks with no requirements for public access.   Recently we received a letter from the DNR asking if we were interested in a program called Voluntary Public Access, a new program that is focusing on land in priority areas in SW Wisconsin.  I believe I received this letter because I recently enrolled some land in CREP (a version of CRP).  Because it was previously cropland, my property taxes on these acres will continue to be approximately $2.50/acre.  The letter goes on to say that if I’m interested in signing up in this program, I could receive $15/acre for forestland, $10/acre for grasslands and $3/acre for cropland.  We’ll let you know what George has to say.


We’re also working with folks from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, a group that can be very influential with the legislators on bills like this one.  We hope to meet soon with them.

 

Many WWOA members have reached out to their legislators to talk with them about SB 161 and tax issues. Thank you to you all!

 

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September 5 Update

In This Update:

Committee Membership Update
WWOA's Government Affairs Committee - Here to Help

 

Committee Membership Update
Senator Dale Schultz has been appointed Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Higher Education Committee filling a vacancy caused by Dan Kapanke’s loss in the recall election.  This committee will be the first to take up action on changes to the MFL.  The democratic membership of this committee is still a bit up in the air but at this time no changes have been announced.  There is no news yet on when a hearing might be scheduled on SB 161.


One other bill of interest, SB 126 (member Nancy Livingston’s bill), has also been referred to this same Senate committee.   Again no hearings have been scheduled.  WWOA’s position on SB 161 includes some aspects of this bill by recommending that yield taxes be based on actual sale price of timber rather than book stumpage rates.


WWOA's Government Affairs Committee - Here to Help
Gene Roark and Rich Wedepohl are happy to meet with any of your legislators or their staff here in Madison.  We could provide more detail on WWOA’s positions or answer any questions they might have about the bill’s detail. 

Our sense is that the majority of the legislators have only a very basic understanding of issues that affect us.  This past year we had a chance to sit in a legislative hearing on an agricultural issue and heard one of the committee members propose that woodland owners in MFL should be given an option to get out early -- if they wanted to convert their land to agriculture.  His argument was that it would help the local tax base.  We met with him later and showed him that the average tax on agricultural land in his district was $2/acre, half that for pasture land. He thanked me for talking to him to help him better understand the property tax system.


Somehow we need to figure out how to let the legislators know that woodland is being threatened by disproportionately high taxes and that the MFL needs changing in several other ways if it is to remain a viable option for woodland owners. 

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August 22 Update

 

In This Update:

WWOA Position Statement on SB 161
How You Can Help 

 


WWOA Position Statement on SB 161
WWOA’s Board recently approved a position statement on SB 161.  Click here to read those positions along with additional amendments we feel are necessary to help maintain the MFL as a good option for Wisconsin and its private woodland owners.       


SB 161, drafted by the legislative council study committee, has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education.   Current members of this committee are Senators Harsdorf (R, River Falls), Kedzie (R, Elkhorn), Moulton (R, Chippewa Falls), Vinehout (D, Alma), Hansen (D, Green Bay), and Holperin (D, Conover).   The committee chair position is currently vacant with Senator Kapanke having lost in the recent recall election. 


A public hearing on this bill has not yet been scheduled.   We will keep everyone posted as soon as we know when that might happen.      


How You Can Help
WWOA can make a difference with this proposed legislation.  What is most needed right now is to have legislators being contacted by woodland owners regarding SB 161.  A phone call, a letter, and personal visits are all very helpful.  Unless our legislators understand why changes to the MFL are needed, they cannot take actions to make them happen.  Feel free to distribute WWOA’s position statement on this proposed legislation.


Detail on SB 161 can be found at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/proposals/sb161


To find out who your legislators are and to sign up for notifications on actions taken on SB 161 you should go to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Home Page at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/


To receive e-updates on SB 161, email GovernmentAffairs@WisconsinWoodlands.org.

 

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