Nov 17 2011
Salt Lake City - Following seven months of research and study, the 35 member Utah Agriculture Sustainability Task Force, led by Lt. Governor Greg Bell and Commissioner Leonard Blackham, is offering 29 recommendations that are expected to protect and enhance Utah agriculture. The recommendations generally call for the creation of new laws and policies at the federal, state and local levels that remove obstacles for safe and modern farming and ranching.
A few of the recommendations include:
- Provide new monies to the LeRay McAllister fund to provide matching funds for conservation easements on productive agricultural lands with prime or locally-important soils.
- Provide a $1,000,000 increase in invasive species control, especially for non-native weeds.
- Create a separate greenbelt designation for smaller-acreage productive operations.
- Develop incubator kitchens in each county to provide small-scale agricultural start-ups with a place to test new products.
- Provide, incentives and/or legislation to encourage local stores, restaurants, school lunch programs, state agencies, and other public sector services to buy Utah products first, (when available);
- Work with the Governor's Office of Economic Development to improve local processing capacity.
- Support Utah House Bill 116 (Guest Worker Program): an ample, sustainable and legal workforce is critical for our farms and ranches.
"Utah is among the fastest growing states in the country. We welcome the growth but we must prepare for its impact on agriculture," said Lt. Governor, Greg Bell. "I am pleased with the recommendations of the task force which promote self-reliance and economic growth while preserving farmland and our heritage"
The action items were unanimously supported by all members of the task force, with the exception of conservation easements. A few members had concerns with the structure and appropriateness of conservation easements.
According to a 2008 Governor's Office of Planning and Budget report, the State will need to develop nearly 200,000 additional acres of farmland to meet the increased population projected for the year 2030 if current development trends continue. Most of this development will occur on our most productive farmlands in Wasatch Front Counties.
"We must recognize that we cannot continue the path we have been taking with regards to protecting our prime farmland and expect different results," said Agriculture and Food Commissioner Leonard Blackham. "Conservation easements are a needed option if we wish to protect our access to locally grown fruits and vegetables," he added. Commissioner Blackham stressed that the recommendations are intended to protect our food supply which is the most abundant and affordable for consumers than in any time in history. The steps outlined by the task force are designed to reduce the dependency on foreign-grown foods, increase our supply of locally grown foods and increase our quality of life.
The Task Force developed and adapted these recommendations for the state, local governments, producers, and consumers. The recommendations are intended to start deliberations on these issues and will result in concrete solutions to protect farms, ranches, farm families, and most importantly, the communities that are served by the benefits of Utah Agriculture.
Read the summary and 29 recommendations here.