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County, towns begin to harvest benefits

As assessors and other officials become familiar with the process, Pierce County is collecting more farmland conversion fees, reported Treasurer Lee Skog last week.

Skog said his office has billed out $101,840 in conversion fees this year and so far has collected $63,024. Half of the money collected goes to the townships.

"The county is making some money on it at the expense of a lot of hassle," said Skog. He called Wisconsin's farmland penalty statute "a poorly designed law."

First, he said, the statute calls the fee a penalty.

"In this case, nobody did anything wrong," said Skog. He said it's an affront to those who owe the fee to call it a penalty.

Also, he said, the fee -- which is based on the number of acres converted -- can be quite high, and in many cases it's unreasonable to require landowners to pay it within 30 days as the law requires.

"People aren't happy because they didn't know about it," added Skog, saying that the bill from his office comes as a shock to many landowners.