2019 - 2020 LEGISLATURE
October 4, 2019 - Introduced by Senators Ringhand, Carpenter, Erpenbach,
Larson, Miller, Shilling and L. Taylor, cosponsored by Representatives
Spreitzer, Kurtz, Kolste, Considine, Vruwink, Anderson, Billings, Bowen,
Doyle, Edming, Haywood, Hesselbein, Kitchens, Kulp, B. Meyers, L. Myers,
Neubauer, Novak, Pope, Sargent, Skowronski, Stuck, Subeck, Zamarripa
and C. Taylor. Referred to Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges,
Children and Families.
1An Act to create
15.137 (7), 20.235 (1) (em), 39.52, 71.05 (6) (a) 30. and 71.05 (6) 2
(b) 54. of the statutes; relating to: creating a program for reimbursing the
3higher education debt of beginning farmers, creating an individual income tax
4deduction for certain amounts received from such a program, granting
5rule-making authority, making an appropriation, and providing a penalty.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer
Protection to establish a program for the Higher Educational Aids Board to
reimburse beginning farmers for their higher educational debt, except for debt that
is reimbursed, assumed, or paid for under any other public or private program. The
bill defines “beginning farmer” as an individual who satisfies all of the following: 1)
manages a farm or a component of a farm in this state as his or her primary
occupation; 2) has produced farm products for no more than ten consecutive years;
and 3) at the time he or she first applies for reimbursement, has an annual adjusted
gross income that is not more than 500 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
To obtain reimbursement from HEAB, the bill requires an individual to apply
to the Beginning Farmer Higher Education Debt Council, which is created in
DATCP. The council consists of the secretary of agriculture, trade and consumer
protection or his or her designee and the dean and director of the UW-Madison
division of extension or his or her designee. The secretary appoints the following
other members for three-year terms: 1) an individual who administers or
participates or cooperates in programs of the Farm Service Agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture; 2) a representative of agricultural lenders; and 3) a
representative of higher education loan providers or servicers. The council must
advise HEAB on carrying out its duties and promulgating rules under the bill.
DATCP is required to provide administrative support to the council.
To be eligible for reimbursement, an individual must be a state resident who is
a beginning farmer as defined above. In addition, the individual must intend to
manage a farm or component of a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation
for at least five years after applying for reimbursement. Also, the individual must
have completed one of the following educational requirements: 1) graduated from an
accredited public or nonprofit institution with an associate or baccalaureate degree;
2) completed a farm and industry short course offered by the University of Wisconsin
System; or 3) obtained a technical college diploma or certificate in agriculture or a
field related to agriculture. The council must advise HEAB on whether an applicant
is eligible for reimbursement. If there are insufficient funds to make payments to
all eligible applicants, the council must advise HEAB to give priority to applicants
in specified categories, including financial need, likelihood to successfully continue
farming in this state, progress toward farm ownership, and use of sustainable best
The bill requires HEAB to enter into reimbursement agreements with eligible
individuals. An agreement must express an individual's commitment to pursue a
long-term career in farming in this state and to make a good faith effort to comply
with the requirements of the program. An individual must also agree to annually
submit documentation to HEAB showing that the individual continues to be a state
resident who is managing a farm or a component of a farm in this state as his or her
primary occupation. The documentation must also show that in the preceding year
the individual has made all required payments on outstanding higher education debt
in amounts not less than amounts reimbursed under the program. The individual
must also agree to notify HEAB within 60 days if he or she ceases to be a state
resident or ceases to manage a farm or farm component in this state as his or her
primary occupation. The agreement must also describe the grounds for terminating
an agreement, which are described below, and the penalties for intentionally
providing false information to HEAB or the council, which are a civil forfeiture of no
more than $500, and, for individuals with agreements with HEAB, liability under
the clawback provision described below.
The bill requires HEAB to make five annual payments of equal amounts to
individuals who satisfy the bill's requirements. HEAB must make the first payment
as soon as practicable after entering into the agreement and the subsequent
payments annually thereafter after receiving the documentation described above.
The total amount of payments over five years is $30,000, which is adjusted for
inflation, or the total amount of an individual's outstanding higher education debt,
whichever is less. The bill appropriates the following maximum amounts for the
program: in fiscal year 2019-20, $120,000; in fiscal year 2020-21, $240,000; in fiscal
year 2021-22, $360,000; in fiscal year 2022-23, $480,000; and in fiscal year 2023-24
and each fiscal year thereafter, $600,000. The Department of Administration must
adjust the foregoing amounts based on inflation.
The bill specifies four grounds for terminating agreements. First, if an
individual ceases to be a state resident or ceases to manage a farm or component of
a farm in this state as his or her primary occupation, the agreement and payments
terminate, except as provided in rules that HEAB must promulgate. Under those
rules, an individual's agreement is suspended, instead of terminated, if, due to
circumstances beyond the individual's control, including deployment in the U.S.
armed forces or national guard, the individual ceases to be a state resident or ceases
engaging in the required farm management. The rules must provide for suspending
the payments until an individual resumes state residency or engaging in the
required farm management. Second, an agreement terminates if an individual fails
to submit the required annual documentation by a due date determined by HEAB.
However, the bill allows HEAB, at its discretion, to grant an extension for submitting
the documentation. The bill allows an individual whose agreement is terminated on
this basis to reapply for reimbursement under the program. If an individual's
agreement terminates under the first or second grounds, he or she is liable to HEAB
under a clawback provision for a portion of his or her most recent annual payment
that corresponds to the portion of the year that the agreement is no longer in effect.
For example, for termination under the first ground, the liability corresponds to the
portion of the year the individual was no longer a state resident or did not engage in
Third, if an individual intentionally provides false information to HEAB or the
council, HEAB must terminate the agreement and the individual is liable to HEAB
under a clawback provision for the total amount of payments made to the individual
at a 10 percent interest rate. Fourth, if an individual fails to comply with a
requirement in an agreement to notify HEAB within 60 days of ceasing to be a state
resident or ceasing the required farm management activities, HEAB must terminate
the agreement and the individual is liable to HEAB for the most recent payment
received at a 5 percent interest rate.
The bill also does the following:
1. Provides that no more than 30 percent of the amount appropriated for the
program in a fiscal year may be used to reimburse individuals who completed a farm
and industry short course or obtained the technical college diploma or certificate
2. To the extent funding is available in a fiscal year, allows HEAB to make total
annual payments that are less then $30,000 to additional eligible individuals.
3. Creates an individual income tax subtract modification (deduction) for
payments made to an individual under the bill. The deduction first applies to taxable
years beginning after December 31, 2018.
4. Requires the Legislative Audit Bureau to evaluate the effectiveness of the
program and, no later than July 1, 2026, and every ten years thereafter, submit a
report to the legislature regarding its evaluation.
Because this bill relates to an exemption from state or local taxes, it may be
referred to the Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions for a report to be printed
as an appendix to the bill.
For further information see the state fiscal estimate, which will be printed as
an appendix to this bill.
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. (1) Findings.
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).