Who can implement this: Federal, state, county, and city officials; governmental organizations; and agricultural producers
This toolbox provides a wide range of opportunities for community leaders to make and keep agriculture economically and socially viable and to encourage development patterns and implement measures that protect agricultural land and water resources. However, elected officials on all scales in Utah County should work with federal elected officials and federal agencies to develop additional programs and resources that may be outside of the scope of this document.
The most effective regulatory programs are generally run on the state or local levels in cooperation with the farm industry and provide flexibility wherever possible.
Currently many regulatory programs increase the cost and difficulty of compliance for existing farmers and ranchers, which is either passed on to Utah consumers through higher grocery bills or taken out of agricultural producers’ already thin margins. By decreasing the complexity of existing regulatory systems, elected officials can begin to tackle significant barriers to entry into the agriculture industry that would have otherwise dissuaded new farmers and ranchers who lack the experience, capital, or economies of scale necessary to comply with the existing regulatory framework.
- Utah’s congressional delegation should work with state and local elected officials and the agriculture community to improve regulatory programs to improve agriculture in Utah County.
- New federal regulations should consider the input of farmers and ranchers affected by the regulations. Where feasible, the regulatory programs should be administered by the state and include flexibility that allows the state to adapt to local environmental, social, and economic conditions.
- Compliance assistance funding and resources should be made available to the delegated state agencies and to farmers and ranchers.
Agricultural Employment Visas - Farmers and ranchers have long experienced difficulty in obtaining workers who are willing and able to work on farms and ranches. Jobs in agriculture are physically demanding, conducted in all seasons, and often temporary. For many prospective workers from other countries, these jobs present significant economic opportunities. Farmers often rely on these foreign workers, who are admitted under a government-sponsored temporary worker program known as H-2A, and on workers who have legal working status in the United States. In its current form, the H-2A program places unnecessary burdens on farmers and ranchers, making the program unsustainably costly.
Reforming the immigration system can help ensure that American agriculture has a legal, stable supply of workers, both in the short and long term and for all types of agriculture. This strategy requires a legislative solution that addresses the current unauthorized agricultural workforce in the United States and ensures that future needs are met through a program that will admit a sufficient number of willing and able workers in a timely manner. Past legislative proposals (e.g. AgJOBS, HARVEST Act, BARN Act, and other bills) have proposed reforms to the H-2A program to ensure a future workforce in agriculture, but these proposals have been unsuccessful thus far.
- Utah County and state officials should work with the federal delegation to support legislative and administrative actions to restructure the H-2A program. This restructure would ideally place it primarily under the authority and administration of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as the H-2A program is an immigration and homeland security issue, not a labor issue.
- County and state officials should work with the federal delegation and federal agencies to provide Utah with the authority and tools needed to move forward with its initiatives, including the state’s efforts to implement the Utah Immigration Accountability Enforcement Act and the Pilot Sponsored Resident Immigrant Program Act.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) – Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of petitions to list species, including the Wolverine, Western Bumble Bee, and Greater Sage Grouse. These petitions often require local and state agencies and elected officials to create conservation plans to better protect threatened or endangered species. These plans often require federal involvement and oversight in protection and recovery efforts. All efforts for conservation plans should include conducting local and regional assessments and should take into account existing management plans.
The ESA has affected Utah most recently with legislative concerns over Greater Sage Grouse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture created plans amending existing Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land-use plans to better protect sage grouse in ten western states. A countermeasure was then proposed by a Utah representative: the Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016 attempted to allow state organizations and governors to overrule federal action to preserve sage grouse if the actions were deemed inconsistent with the state’s management plan, but legislative action was never taken on the bill.
Pesticide Worker Protection Standards (WPS) - The new WPS rule increases costs for farmers and ranchers. Changes to WPS could have significant impacts on the agricultural community. The most recent changes to WPS rules include annual training for farm workers, posting no-entry signs for fields treated with pesticides, and a potential increase in liability to the landowner for drift of pesticides by the applicator.
- The Environmental Protection Agency should work with state organizations to ensure that WPS protections are upheld while minimizing costs for farmers and ranchers.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – FSMA aims to ensure the safety of the country’s food supply by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. UDAF’s Division of Regulatory Services has a cooperative agreement with the FDA to inspect assigned food manufacturing facilities and the produce sector on an annual basis. However, many farms affected by FSMA are already participating in good agricultural practices (GAP) certification, a requirement imposed by many grocery stores as a requirement for farmers’ crops to be sold in stores. Grocery stores and other retailers generally require producers to meet the FSMA standards as well, regardless of the size of the operation.
- Federal and state officials should work to better coordinate FSMA implementation with GAP certification to allow the producers to follow one set of rules instead of having to navigate various rules and standards.
- Federal agencies and state departments should ensure that there is sufficient and consistent funding for states to implement FSMA, as well as additional funding and compliance assistance for farmers working to understand and implement new food safety standards.
Grazing– Farmers and ranchers regularly use public lands for livestock grazing, benefiting both their operations and the land itself. Flexibility for farmers and ranchers who utilize public lands for their operations is essential. Using public lands for grazing supports many family-based operations and is vital to the culture, customs, and economies of Utah County and the entire State of Utah. Ranching operations and public land grazing provide food for a growing population. These operations can also maintain open spaces and promote habitat conditions that benefit wildlife and recreation. Restrictions on public lands grazing can have negative impacts on ranchers and ranch-dependent communities. Land management decisions are most effective when made through a collaborative and cooperative process. A majority of the land in the west is managed by the federal government, making public lands vital to Utah agriculture. Continued grazing on public lands is essential to the future of ranching and farming in Utah County.
- Land management agencies should reward farmers who utilize adaptive management practices and who monitor the health and productivity of their grazing operations on public lands. Recognizing their efforts will act as an incentive for other permittees, encouraging them to implement innovative, adaptive management practices.
In Rich County, Utah, the Three Creeks project stands as a prime example of the cooperative management of grazing lands. At the request of county commissioners, private ranchers and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service will soon consolidate 10 grazing allotments into one 135,000-acre management unit. This will allow adaptive management practices to take place, benefiting the environment and the rural economy.
 From a Salt Lake Tribune article entitled “We are not all Cliven Bundys: Rich County ranchers partner with BLM to revolutionize grazing”. First Published Aug 29 2016 03:33PM By Brian Maffly: http://www.sltrib.com/news/4088140-155/we-are-not-all-clivenbundys-rich