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Task force looks at ways to preserve farmland

It's been almost two years since a state task force suggested ways to preserve Wisconsin's dwindling farmland.

Now, the panel wants to press the issue with legislators.

Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen got the group together last week to talk about revamping the state's Farmland Preservation Program.

It gives tax credits to farmers who agree to keep their land in agriculture.

He said it was the nation's most effective program soon after it started in 1978, but now it's badly outdated.

The panel wants lawmakers to consider a few changes next year.

They want all land in the program zoned for exclusive agricultural zoning.

Farmers would get flat credits per acre, instead of having them based on their incomes.

The application process would be made easier.

About 8 million acres are covered now, and Nilsestuen says the proposed changes would add acreage at no cost to taxpayers.

He says something's got to be done because Wisconsin is losing 30,000 acres of farmland each year, the most in the Midwest.