The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
15.137 (7) of the statutes is created to read:
15.137 (7) Beginning farmer higher education debt council.
There is created 3
in the department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection a beginning farmer 4
higher education debt council consisting of the secretary of agriculture, trade and 5
consumer protection or his or her designee, the dean and director of the University 6
of Wisconsin-Madison division of extension or his or her designee, and the following 7
members appointed by the secretary of agriculture, trade and consumer protection 8
for 3-year terms:
(a) An individual who administers or participates or cooperates in programs 10
of the farm service agency of the U.S. department of agriculture. The secretary may 11
consult with the farm service agency in making the appointment.
(b) An individual representing agricultural lenders.
(c) An individual representing higher education loan providers or servicers.
20.235 (1) (em) of the statutes is created to read:
(em) Beginning farmers.
A sum sufficient to make reimbursement 16
payments to beginning farmers under the program under s. 39.52. Subject to s. 39.52 17
(6), the amount appropriated under this paragraph in fiscal year 2019-20 may not 18
exceed $120,000, in fiscal year 2020-21 may not exceed $240,000, in fiscal year
2021-22 may not exceed $360,000, in fiscal year 2022-23 may not exceed $480,000, 2
and in fiscal year 2023-24 and each fiscal year thereafter may not exceed $600,000.
39.52 of the statutes is created to read:
439.52 Beginning farmers.
The legislature finds that farming 5
is central to this state's traditions and economy and essential for feeding residents 6
of this state and beyond. The legislature also finds that as the population of farmers 7
ages, this state faces a challenge recruiting and retaining beginning farmers. The 8
legislature believes that higher education debt is a significant barrier for beginning 9
farmers who work towards economic viability during the early years of their careers. 10
The legislature therefore finds it in the best interest of the state to establish a 11
program to provide financial assistance to beginning farmers carrying student debt 12
in their first years of farming in exchange for a commitment to farming in this state. 13
The purpose of the program is to recruit and retain beginning farmers of diverse 14
backgrounds who have completed postsecondary education, regardless of field of 15
study, previous state residency, or background in agriculture, and who are committed 16
to a career of farming in Wisconsin, in order to sustain this state's farmers, family 17
farms, and agricultural economy while fostering innovation in sustainable best 18
In this section:
(a) “Beginning farmer” means an individual who manages a farm or a 21
component of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation, has produced farm 22
products, as defined in s. 93.01 (5), for no more than 10 consecutive years, and has 23
an annual adjusted gross income of not more than 500 percent of the federal poverty 24
guidelines at the time the individual first applies for reimbursement payments 25
under this section.
(b) “Council" means the beginning farmer higher education debt council.
(c) “Department” means the department of agriculture, trade and consumer 3
(d) “Higher education debt" means debt, including interest, incurred in pursuit 5
of a certificate, diploma, or degree from an institution of higher education or to 6
complete a farm and industry short course offered by the University of Wisconsin 7
System, but does not include any debt reimbursed, assumed, or otherwise paid for 8
under any public or private program other than the program established under sub. 9
(e) “Institution of higher education" means a nonprofit or public educational 11
institution that awards an associate or baccalaureate degree and that is accredited 12
by an accrediting agency that is recognized by the secretary of the federal 13
department of education.
14(3) Reimbursement program; eligibility
. (a) The department shall establish 15
a program for the board to reimburse the higher education debt under sub. (5) or (9) 16
(b) of an individual who applies to the council and satisfies all of the following:
1. The individual is a beginning farmer and state resident.
2. The individual satisfies one of the following:
a. The individual has graduated from an institution of higher education with 20
an associate or baccalaureate degree.
b. The individual has completed a farm and industry short course offered by 22
the University of Wisconsin System.
c. The individual has obtained a technical college diploma or certificate in 24
agriculture or a field related to agriculture from an institution of higher education.
3. The individual intends to manage a farm or component of a farm in this state 2
as his or her primary occupation for at least 5 years after applying to the council for 3
(b) The program established under par. (a) shall allow an individual to apply 5
for reimbursement prior to satisfying the requirement under par. (a) 2.
(a) The board shall enter into an agreement for making 7
payments under sub. (5) or (9) (b) to an individual who satisfies the requirements 8
under sub. (3).
(b) An agreement under par. (a) shall do all of the following:
1. Express the individual's commitment to pursue a long-term career in 11
farming in this state and to make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements 12
of this section during the 5-year period in which the individual receives payments 13
under sub. (5) or (9) (b).
2. Require the individual to annually submit documentation showing to the 15
board's satisfaction that the individual continues to be a state resident who is 16
managing a farm or a component of a farm in this state as his or her primary 17
occupation and that the individual has in the preceding year made payments to the 18
individual's outstanding higher education debt in an amount no less than the 19
amount of the preceding year's reimbursement payment under sub. (5).
3. Except as otherwise provided in this section, require the board to make 21
annual payments under sub. (5).
4. Require the individual to notify the board within 60 days if the individual 23
ceases to be a state resident or ceases to manage a farm or a component of a farm in 24
this state as his or her primary occupation.
5. Require the individual to provide the board with any information the board 2
determines is necessary for administering this section.
6. Identify the higher education debt to be reimbursed.
7. Describe the grounds for terminating the agreement and an individual's 5
liability to the board upon termination.
8. Identify the penalty under sub. (10) (a) and (b) 1. for intentionally providing 7
false information to the board or council.
8(5) Reimbursement payments.
Except as otherwise provided in this section, for 9
each individual with whom the board enters into an agreement under sub. (4) (a), the 10
board shall make 5 annual payments of equal amounts to the individual that in total 11
equal the total amount of the individual's outstanding higher education debts, or 12
$30,000, whichever is less. The board shall make the first payment as soon as 13
practicable after entering into the agreement and the subsequent payments 14
annually thereafter upon receipt of the documentation required under sub. (4) (b) 2.
The department of administration shall annually on July 1 16
adjust the amounts appropriated under s. 20.235 (1) (em) and the amount specified 17
in sub. (5) to reflect any changes in the U.S. consumer price index for all urban 18
consumers, U.S. city average, as determined by the U.S. department of labor, for the 19
12-month period ending on the preceding December 31.
In a fiscal year, no more than 30 percent of the amount appropriated 21
under s. 20.235 (1) (em) for the fiscal year may be used to make payments under subs. 22
(5) and (9) (b) to individuals who satisfy sub. (3) (a) 2. b. or c.
23(8) Termination; suspension.
1. Except as provided in par. (c), 24
on the date that an individual ceases to be a state resident or manage a farm or 25
component of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation, the board shall
terminate the individual's agreement under sub. (4) (a) on that date and the 2
individual is not eligible to receive any remaining payments under the agreement.
2. If an individual fails to annually submit documentation to the board as 4
required under sub. (4) (b) 2. by a due date determined by the board, the board shall 5
terminate the individual's agreement under sub. (4) (a) and the individual is not 6
eligible to receive any remaining payments under the agreement, unless the board 7
at its discretion grants the individual an extension for submitting the required 8
documentation. An individual whose agreement is terminated under this 9
subdivision may reapply for reimbursement under sub. (3).
Upon termination of an agreement under par. (a), an individual 11
is liable to the board for an amount equal to the product obtained by multiplying the 12
amount of the most recent annual payment received by the individual under sub. (5) 13
or (9) (b) by a fraction in which the denominator is 365 and the numerator is the 14
number of days after the termination date that remain in the year immediately 15
following the most recent annual payment.
The board shall promulgate rules that allow for suspension of 17
an individual's agreement under sub. (4) (a) if, due to circumstances beyond the 18
individual's control, the individual ceases to be a state resident or ceases to manage 19
a farm or component of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation for a 20
limited period. The circumstances shall include deployment in the U.S. armed 21
services or national guard. The rules shall provide for each of the following:
1. Suspending payments during the period the individual ceases to be a state 23
resident and reinstituting payments when the individual is a state resident.
2. Suspending payments during the period the individual ceases managing a 25
farm or component of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation and
reinstituting payments when the individual resumes managing a farm or component 2
of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation.
3(9) Applicants; funding.
(a) The council shall advise the board whether an 4
applicant for reimbursement payments satisfies the requirements under sub. (3). If 5
there is not sufficient funding to make reimbursement payments to all applicants for 6
reimbursement, the council shall advise the board to give priority to applicants 7
under the following categories:
1. Applicants with the greatest financial need.
2. Applicants who are most likely to successfully continue managing a farm or 10
a component of a farm in this state based on factors including an applicant's interest 11
in a farming career, demonstrated training and experience, farm business plan, and 12
relationship with a mentor.
3. Applicants who own or who are working toward ownership of a farm.
4. Applicants who manage a farm or component of a farm that employs 15
sustainable best practices for farming that are identified in the list of approved 16
conservation enhancements and practices under the Conservation Stewardship 17
Program of the U.S. department of agriculture.
5. Applicants who are members of groups that are underrepresented in farming 19
in this state.
(b) If funding is available due to agreement terminations under sub. (8) (a) or 21
(10) (b), or if funding is available because the total amount of grants made by the 22
board under sub. (5) in a fiscal year does not exceed the limit specified in s. 20.235 23
(1) (em), the council shall advise the board of other individuals who are eligible for 24
reimbursement under sub. (3). Based on the amount of funding that is available, the
board may make payments to eligible individuals for a total amount that is less than 2
the amount required under sub. (5).
Any individual who intentionally provides false 4
information to the board or council under this section may be required to forfeit no 5
more than $500.
1. If an individual with whom the board has entered into an 7
agreement under sub. (4) (a) intentionally provides false information to the board or 8
council under this section, the board shall terminate the agreement and the 9
individual is liable to the board for the total amount of payments made to the 10
individual under sub. (5) together with interest at the rate of 10 percent per year from 11
the date of the payments.
2. If an individual with whom the board has entered into an agreement under 13
sub. (4) (a) fails to comply with a requirement under sub. (4) (b) 4., the board shall 14
terminate the agreement and the individual is liable to the board for the most recent 15
payment made to the individual under sub. (5) together with interest at the rate of 16
5 percent per year from the date of the payment.
The board and department may promulgate rules to carry out their 18
respective duties under this section.
The council shall advise the board on carrying out the board's 20
duties and promulgating rules under this section. The department shall provide 21
administrative support to the council.
The legislative audit bureau shall evaluate the effectiveness of the 23
program established under this section in accomplishing the purposes specified in 24
sub. (1). No later than July 1, 2026, and every 10 years thereafter, the legislative 25
audit bureau shall submit a report of its evaluation to the chief clerk of each house
of the legislature for distribution to the appropriate standing committees under s. 2
13.172 (3). The report shall include the legislative audit bureau's recommendations 3
on terminating, continuing, revising, or expanding the program, including any 4
recommendations regarding funding the program.
71.05 (6) (a) 30. of the statutes is created to read:
(a) 30. The amount of student loan interest taken as a deduction under 7
of the Internal Revenue Code, to the extent student loan interest was 8
reimbursed under s. 39.52 and subtracted under par. (b) 54.
71.05 (6) (b) 54. of the statutes is created to read:
(b) 54. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2018, any 11
amount received by an individual under the program under s. 39.52.
(1) Initial council members.
Notwithstanding the length of term for certain 14
members of the beginning farmer higher education debt council that is specified in 15
s. 15.137 (7) (intro.), the initial member appointed under s. 15.137 (7) (a) shall have 16
a term expiring on July 1, 2021, the initial member appointed under s. 15.137 (7) (b) 17
shall have a term expiring on July 1, 2022, and the initial member appointed under 18
s. 15.137 (7) (c) shall have a term expiring on July 1, 2023.