Strategies other than zoning can be used to protect farmland identified in a farmland protection plan. Agricultural tax abatement programs, which assess farmland at its current agricultural value rather than its zoned value, can reduce pressure on farmers to convert and sell off their farmland in order to pay their property taxes.
Tax abatements may be given to active farms of certain specified minimum acreage located in areas of prime agricultural soils, to reduce economic pressure on farmers to convert the land to a non-agricultural use. In order to get the tax break, the farmer agrees to keep the land in active production for a given period of time, with a significant penalty of back-taxes coming due if the land is converted from farming before the end of the production period. These programs can help prevent the premature conversion of farmland on the urban fringe.
Some argue that these tax abatement programs can be misused to support "hobby-farms" or to indirectly subsidize land speculation by reducing the holding costs for the land until adequate infrastructure is extended into the urban fringe.
Example 1: LaCrosse County, Wisconsin
Description: LaCrosse County’s Farmland Protection Incentives
Example 2: Wisconsin
Description: Pg 12 discusses these agreements