Over the last decade, the Utah Legislature has considered a number of bills on the topic of food safety, food production and distribution and land preservation. Much of the attention has been centered on how to reduce regulations on local food production and distribution without compromising food safety. Unfortunately, proposed legislation created conflict with urban and rural stakeholders, small and large producers and others. In an effort to minimize the conflict and bring stakeholders together, the 2017 Utah Legislature passed a bill creating a Local Food Advisory Council, comprised of several legislators and nearly a dozen agriculture industry representatives. The primary charge of the Local Food Advisory Council is to make recommendations on how best to promote vibrant, locally owned farms, promote resilient ecosystems, promote strong communities and healthy eating and develop a robust, integrated local food system.
Many Utahns are looking for locally grown produce. For many, eating local food protects the environment, improves personal health, enhances the freshness of the food and contributes to the local economy. It is estimated that only 20-25 percent of the retail cost from fresh fruit and vegetables is retained by the farmer. The remaining 75-80 percent is filtered into marketing, transportation, processing, retailing and other services external to the farmer.
Local food production has increased in popularity in recent years. Between 1997 and 2007 (10 years), direct-to-consumer sales, such as farmers markets, rose 105 percent – two times faster than total agricultural sales. At the same time, the number of farms selling directly to the consumer increased 24 percent.
Co-chairs of the Local Food Advisory Council are Senator Davis (D-Salt Lake City) and Representative Handy (R-Layton). Under their direction, the Council has identified four topics and subgroups to more fully accomplish the legislative intent of the 2017 legislation. Topics include: agriculture land preservation, regulations, innovations in production and innovations in distribution.
The 2017 legislation directs this Council to meet for five years with annual reports to the Natural Resources, Environment and Agriculture Interim Committee. The Council has met several times with the subgroups just starting to meet in the spring of 2018.
UTAH FARM BUREAU POLICY
Utah Farm Bureau supports all participants in the food chain, from producers to consumers, working towards safe food, including but not limited to education, research and programs designed to ensure food safety. Utah Farm Bureau also supports vertical integrated, direct to consumer sales, processing and product value- adding that secures the sustainability, market stability and safety of the entire food chain, with consideration to risk.
For more information, contact Sterling Brown, Vice President – Public Policy at email@example.com