Utah Farm Bureau Lists ‘Issues to Watch For in 2023’
The Utah Farm Bureau has released its list of ‘Issues to Watch For in 2023’ upon returning from the national agricultural convention for the American Farm Bureau Federation and at the start of the 2023 Utah general legislative session.
Though not exhaustive in scope, the list is based on the Farm Bureau’s policy book, adopted at its convention in November and the recent national convention held last week. The policy book will guide the general farm and ranch organization’s public policy actions throughout the upcoming year – including the current legislative session.
“It is important to note the policies advocated and defended by the Utah Farm Bureau come from the grassroots level, from actual farmers and ranchers on the ground and in the trenches – not simply from the ideas of one leader or board,” said Ron Gibson, a dairy farmer from Weber County and President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. “These policies are developed through debate and deliberation in response to issues felt on the farms of the smallest towns as well as in the families of the largest cities in Utah.”
1. Water Issues
It’s no surprise that water issues will take center stage at this year’s legislature, and are of supreme concern for the Utah Farm Bureau. Coming off one of the busiest years for water legislation last year, Farm Bureau will be focused on a myriad of bills again this year. Among the most successful ways of helping farmers & ranchers become more efficient with their water use in recent years has been the Ag Water Optimization grants, administered by the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food (UDAF). We support the Governor’s request for $200 million in funding for the grants. The initial grants in 2019 have resulted in more than 7 billion gallons of water saved, and the most recent set of grants in 2021 have an anticipated savings of an additional 4 billion gallons. Utah Farm Bureau feels that partnering in proven water-saving methods, rather than abandoning certain agricultural practices as some have called for, are the most effective ways to help agriculture be part of the solution.
Additional efforts will focus on the Great Salt Lake, assisting canal companies in their critical role of water delivery, and clarifying emergency water use rules.
2. Industry Safeguards
Utah Farm Bureau will focus on several legislative efforts aimed at safeguarding threats to the industry. Chief among them will be supporting the funding of the LeRay McAllister Fund. Now housed in the UDAF, the fund is a primary mechanism used to fund agricultural land preservation. Chronically underfunded over the years, we support the Governor’s request for $10 million to help preserve rapidly diminishing agricultural lands in Utah. Another funding request supported by the Utah Farm Bureau is the Agriculture & Rural Small Business Innovation and Sustainability initiative put forward by Utah State University. The initiative is designed to help create opportunities for local producers, processors, and consumers by supporting the development of innovative food processing and distribution systems close to where agriculture production takes place, expanding the capacities of rural Utah, and bringing more Utah-grown and raised foods to local consumers. This initiative would leverage the Small Business Development Centers throughout the state, many of which serve rural communities with strategic business and marketing expertise.
Utah Farm Bureau also supports legislative efforts at strengthening private property rights and defending against livestock theft, as well as making the process more functional for ranchers to reclaim losses for livestock killed in railroad incidents. Lastly, we support efforts at clarifying the varying types of agriculture that qualify under urban farming statutes.
3. Continued Assistance for Veterinary School at Utah State University
Utah Farm Bureau urges additional funding support for the upcoming USU Veterinary school, increasing the initial investment the legislature made last year. A veterinary school in Utah will create jobs, attract millions of dollars in research funding and help keep local students in Utah, increasing the availability of large animal veterinarians for Utah’s farmers and ranchers. Utah currently has 15% fewer veterinarians per capita than the national average, with our growing state there is an increasing demand for veterinarians. A vet school at USU will be a huge benefit to Utah’s farming and ranching community.
As Utah Farm Bureau begins this new calendar year with the state legislative session and then follows up with the many planting, nurturing, and harvesting decisions of the growing season, its public policy process will lead the way in helping government and community leaders understand the needs of a successful agriculture industry and how to support it.
Farmer and rancher delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 104th Convention recently adopted policies to guide the organization’s work in 2023. Key topics ranged from expanding risk management programs and improving dairy pricing transparency to battling hunger.
Farmers and ranchers from around the country support modernizing the farm bill by expanding baseline funding, developing more flexible disaster relief programs, and extending protection to more specialty crops.
They also support more transparency in the federal milk pricing system. Changes to national policy include support for more USDA audits of processing costs to ensure data remains accurate, and a Federal Milk Marketing Orders voting procedure that requires cooperatives to communicate more clearly with members regarding proposed changes.
Recognizing growing food insecurity in the United States, Farm Bureau members recently approved new policy to support access to nutrition programs including connecting farms directly with food banks, increasing the number of SNAP-approved food sales outlets, and other efforts to make produce available to families living in food deserts.
On trade, Farm Bureau encourages USDA to continue working with the Mexican government to drop a proposed ban on imports of biotech corn. The new policy also encourages USDA to urge the Mexican government to accept established science on the safety of U.S. biotech products.
Farm Bureau also formalized its position opposing the 2022 Waters of the U.S. rule and a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule if it requires Scope 3 emissions reporting from farms.
About the Utah Farm Bureau
The Utah Farm Bureau is the largest general farm and ranch organization in the state with more than 34,000 member families. Its mission is to inspire all Utah families to connect, succeed and grow through the miracle of agriculture. It strives to bring value to every citizen and community through love of God, family, country, and the land through political action, educational and informational means. Learn more at UtahFarmBureau.org.
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