City Officials

Promote Greenbelt Designation as a Way for Farmers to Save on Property Taxes, by Valuing Their Land Based on Agricultural Production Rather than Market Value

Who can implement this: State, county, and city lawmakers; advocacy organizations; and agricultural producers

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The Utah Farmland Assessment Act allows Utah farmers and ranchers to have their agricultural property assessed and taxed based on its capability for productivity instead of real-estate market values. [1]

The Utah State Tax Commission works with other committees and Utah State University to establish values for productivity that are applied statewide, setting terms of value per acre for different land classifications. Each qualifying parcel of property is classified upon application according to its existing features and the kind of agriculture being cultivated on it. This classification process gives the land a new value to be assessed and taxed on.

Greenbelt designation is meant to more accurately reflect the true value of agricultural land and operations and lower tax rates to dissuade landowners from selling agricultural land to residential developers. As a result, greenbelt designation could improve both the economic viability of farming operations and the preservation of existing farmlands in Utah County.

Greenbelt areas are also part of the county’s heritage and can make communities more desirable and livable. These areas provide green, open spaces, which could improve air quality and reduce the urban heat island effect.

Greenbelt applications must be obtained from the Utah County Farmland Assessor. In order to currently qualify for greenbelt designation, a parcel of land must: 

  1. Be at least five contiguous acres,
  2. Have been actively devoted to agricultural use for at least two years,
  3. Be managed in a way that there is expectation of profit,
  4. Meet average annual production requirements (at least 50% of the county average for production per acre).

Applications must be submitted by May 1st of the tax year. The resulting assessment is valid unless the landowner fills out another application withdrawing from the greenbelt designation.

State and local lawmakers should work with farm organizations to better understand what is expected of a landowner applying for greenbelt designation and to explore ways to streamline the application process.


  • The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food should better inform farmers and ranchers on the benefits of greenbelt property value designation. Though the greenbelt system has significant benefits, landowners must be aware of the program and must individually apply for greenbelt designation, meaning some may miss the opportunity if they do not know it exists.
  • It is recommended that state and county legislators seek to expand the Urban Farming Assessment Act. This act should be expanded so that it specifically applies to Utah County, as it is to Salt Lake County. Expanding the act might also allow for more unconventional forms of agriculture, possibly including indoor agriculture.
  • Producers on smaller lots should utilize the Urban Farming Assessment Act where applicable. The act allows active agriculturally producing parcels of land between 2–4.99 acres in size to be taxed similarly to greenbelt-qualified properties, lowering property taxes from market rate to more reasonable costs.


The Utah Farmland Assessment Act was created to specifically assist farmers and ranchers preserve their agricultural lands near expanding urban areas across the state. Individual county assessors are responsible for assessing land within their jurisdiction, and the Utah County Assessor’s Office has a dedicated farmland assessor who oversees the countywide implementation of the Utah Farmland Assessment Act.

Expand Farmland by Adapting Systems and Building Water Infrastructure That Will Bring Quality Water to Prime Farm Soils

Who can implement this: State, county, and city lawmakers; water conservancy districts; and infrastructure-funding boards

Expanding and building water infrastructure will bring more high-quality water to farms and ranches and help Utah provide food to its growing population. Some areas in Utah County do not have enough irrigation water to make farming viable, and in some areas the water quality is not good enough to sustain orchards or other high-value crops. For example, Cedar Valley contains many viable agricultural lands that are not farmable because there is no available water in the valley. The cost of building and expanding water infrastructure projects can be prohibitive, but if the projects are carefully planned and executed they can provide new farming opportunities in areas that currently have limited water availability and increase the amount of high-functioning agricultural lands available in the county and state.

Water use in the future must be balanced between agricultural and residential use.[1] Future water infrastructure projects should coordinate with planned residential growth in order to cut back on construction costs and to use the water as efficiently as possible. One stakeholder mentioned that “agriculture can’t pay for every water infrastructure project; people need to realize that these projects will benefit the entire region in the future.”

As communities convert agricultural lands into urban lands, the water infrastructure that existed to primarily service farms needs to be adapted to provide water not only to the remaining farms, but also to the new homes and businesses. Careful planning is important to appropriately balance water use and to meet all of the water needs from users in a community.

Utah’s Water Quality Revolving Fund is an important resource for funding key water-conservation and increased-efficiency strategies. This fund helps finance state projects including pipeline construction, ditch lining, and other projects. As legislative focus has shifted to other areas, money for this revolving fund has been lacking in recent years.

Reusing water will likely become an increasingly important strategy to balance the water needs of agricultural producers in the county with the needs of growing numbers of residential and commercial users. High-quality water is expensive, and reusing water can be a cost-effective and efficient way to increase quality water supplies. For water reuse to become more viable in Utah County, existing water infrastructure systems must be evaluated and made more efficient. Impacts on downstream users also need to be considered.


Utah County and individual cities could explore the viability of establishing local funds to match the offerings from the state Water Quality Revolving Fund. This additional funding for key water projects could increase the efficiency of agricultural and residential water use across Utah County and the state. Some support exists on the federal level for rural agricultural infrastructure projects, and matching that support at the county and state level would help bring water to unirrigated soils in Utah County.

  • It is recommended that county and city lawmakers establish smaller-scale funds for water or agriculture-based projects in Utah County.
  • These local funds could then be matched by the state Water Quality Revolving Fund to pay for crucial water projects that will improve water management and conservation in different regions.
  • Water infrastructure projects suggested by communities, lawmakers, and regional water agencies would then receive needed funding. These projects could range from increasing water efficiency to expanding the amount of agricultural lands in Utah County.
  • State agencies should explore reusing water as a way to increase agricultural water supplies across the state. These agencies should also create specific regulations to ensure the quality and responsible use of reused water.
  • Water organizations and state agencies should look for ways to improve the existing water-distribution system by reducing the amount of water lost through evaporation, pipe leaks, ground seepage, etc.


The Central Utah Water Conservancy District encourages water conservation through rebates, loans, and programs that promote new water projects in Utah County and southern Salt Lake County.[2] In Utah County, the conservancy district has mainly focused on upgrading the Utah Valley Water Treatment Plant to provide municipal and irrigation water to communities.[3]

In 2005, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s Central Water Development Project (CWP) helped to provide water to Cedar Valley. The district purchased water rights from the former Geneva Steel Company and combined them with other ground and surface-water rights.[4] As a result, more water was brought to an area that had previously limited water supplies for farming. The increased amount of water also helped the towns of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs grow.

The 2015 Utah Senate Bill 216 allows the Office of Energy Development to issue a tax credit to an entity developing a high-cost infrastructure project.[5] This provision could incentivize the development of agricultural water projects and increase water delivery to potential farming areas.

Because agricultural water supplies are being stressed by the demands of expanding residential and municipal development, California agricultural producers are increasingly looking into reusing water to meet irrigation demands.[6] State departments have outlined specific regulations for the quality of recycled water in order to mitigate negative effects on human and environmental health. In 2007, California’s Sea Mist farms was the biggest user of recycled water in the world, and their studies showed that their use of recycled water resulted in soil and crop quality that was essentially parallel with those of a neighboring control site.[7]

Promote Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening

Who can implement this: City officials, communities, governmental organizations, and advocacy organizations

Wasatch Community Gardens

Wasatch Community Gardens

Urban agriculture refers to the growing, processing, and distributing of food and other products in urban rather than rural areas. Urban agriculture connects residents in cities to food-growing processes that would normally be inaccessible to them. Urban agriculture positively affects communities, providing both a source of local and healthy food and a place for people to come together and strengthen community ties and relationships.

Urban agriculture includes green-roof gardens, community gardens, and other commercial and noncommercial food production efforts in urban areas. Urban agriculture is valuable because it allows city residents to become involved in and learn more about the food production process. Local gardens provide educational opportunities for residents of all ages, and the benefits of exposing elementary school students, for instance, to urban agriculture are particularly popular and well documented.[1] Utah County is already home to several existing pockets of urban agriculture that could connect the urban community to the agricultural sector socially and economically. Traditional agriculture could also be affected as urban residents become more aware of the experiences and benefits of agricultural production.

Accessory uses on small parcels of land are another option for agriculture in primarily residential areas. Being able to produce food for personal use or commercial sale can expand agriculture on these parcels, often considered “lost” from an agricultural standpoint. Streamlining accessory-use processes and educating residents interested in small-scale agriculture can expand the prevalence of agriculture in Utah County and promote a broader appreciation for larger agricultural efforts.

Urban agriculture further benefits cities by acting as green infrastructure, reducing storm water runoff, increasing greenspace, reducing the urban heat island effect, and converting vacant lots into lively spaces for food production.[2] Urban agriculture is also particularly beneficial to low-income and otherwise disadvantaged families because it provides low-cost food products and encourages people to better integrate with their local communities.[3]


  • It is recommended that city councils enact ordinances and work with the state legislature to provide tax breaks and other incentives for urban farming, particularly the establishment of community gardens.
  • Community gardening organizations should partner with local governments to pilot different forms of urban agriculture. One of the most popular and widely implemented examples of this is temporary urban gardening, where gardens are planted in underused, vacant lots.[4] Through temporary urban gardening communities can combat blight and test the viability of more permanent urban agriculture.[5]
  • If temporary urban gardens are successful, more permanent urban agriculture should be established. Cities can also work with their communities to bypass the temporary-garden stage and instead immediately implement more permanent community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture.
  • Individuals can adopt accessory agricultural uses on their property, which demonstrates their interest in agriculture on all scales while also increasing the supply of local food in their communities.


In 2015, Salt Lake County launched Farmlink, a program focused on connecting interested urban farmers with vacant lands that could be used for food production.[6] The program was incentivized through property tax reductions for landowners who were willing to lease their land for urban commercial farming.

Wasatch Community Gardens is the state’s largest community gardening organization, providing educational and financial resources to help neighborhoods, schools, and families begin community gardens. The organization runs near-weekly classes during the planting and growing seasons.[7]

Utah law allows for conditional agriculture on residential land.[8] Currently, the local planning commission must approve the production of any value-added agricultural products grown as a conditional use on a case-by-case basis.

In 2013, Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones began to be established in California. These zones create tax incentives to encourage both commercial and noncommercial agriculture on lots between 0.1 and 3 acres in urbanized areas across the state.[9]


Create Local Agricultural Commissions That Specifically Promote Agriculture in Individual Communities

Who can implement this: County and city lawmakers, and communities


Agricultural commissions are standing committees, created by individual cities, that strive to increase the visibility of agriculture in communities. They represent and advocate for the farming community, encouraging the pursuit of agriculture, promoting economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and preserving their community’s agricultural businesses and lands.[1] Agricultural commissions are primarily focused on connecting local farmers and ranchers to resources that help agriculture flourish in each individual community.

Utah County farmers should continually take advantage of the increased networking, educational, and economic opportunities provided by agricultural commissions. These commissions allow farmers to be more involved in the decisions of local government, increasing communication between farmers, politicians, and city leaders. Improving the often-lacking dialogue between farmers and local leaders is important in identifying and resolving challenges and will ultimately strengthen the agricultural industry in Utah.


Agricultural commissions are formed by a vote during a county or city council meeting. Massachusetts, where agricultural commissions have significant support, lists the following steps for the creation of an agricultural commission:[2]

  • Identify leaders and organizers to explore the possibility of an agricultural commission in the area.
  • Assess interest for an agricultural commission in the community. Talk to farmers, residents, boards and committees, and community decision makers.
  • Gather the support of farmers and town leadership.
  • Organize a public informational meeting.
  • Invite farmers, residents, and the public through written letters of invitation, press releases, and newspapers articles.
  • If possible, request that members of established agricultural commissions speak about why they organized, what they do, and the benefits to agriculture.
  • Answer the questions: Is an agricultural commission important for our town? Do you think we should organize an agricultural commission in town?
  • Gain commitment from participants to serve on an agricultural commission steering committee.
  • Publicize newly established steering committee meetings.
  • Draft an agricultural commission by-law and town meeting warrant article with input from town boards and town counsel.
  • Research advocates and opposition.
  • Present articles at a town meeting for discussion and vote. This presentation is provided by well informed and prepared advocates.

More information can be found in the Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions’ Toolkit for Organizing a Town Agricultural Commission.[3]


In several of its cities, Massachusetts has agricultural commissions that focus on the unique agricultural issues facing each town and community. The Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions supports agricultural commissions by coordinating the commissions’ resources and relations with state and federal agencies, private and nonprofit organizations, and elected officials.[4] Existing agricultural commissions tackle a range of issues ranging from marketing coordination to local disputes, and their budgets range from $0–$1,000 per year.[5]

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts fills a somewhat similar role, establishing separate districts across Utah and incentivize landowners to protect soil, water, and other natural resources.[6] However, conservations districts do not focus specifically on agriculture.


Educate Utah Children About Agriculture

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; communities; advocacy organizations, agricultural producers; and school districts

The best way to ensure that agriculture will be valued by future generations is to connect children with farms in ways that will leave a lasting impression. Through creating unique educational agricultural experiences, which are not currently covered by the state’s curriculum, future generations will be educated about local food and about the food-production process. These experiences will help children understand where their food comes from while also opening up communication among farmers, teachers, and community members and promoting agriculture as a possible career path.

In the short term, individual communities and schools should create programs that provide children with hands-on farming experiences. Ideally, these small-scale efforts will eventually result in changes to the statewide curriculum, establishing agriculture as a fundamental part of Utahns’ education.


  • Communities and school boards should create and promote programs that connect schools to farms. Additionally, schools and local farms should coordinate to establish these opportunities under existing programs, especially if expanded or made more accessible.
  • School districts should evaluate and revise existing curriculum to make agricultural education a priority.
  • It is recommended that educators and farmers work together to advocate for agricultural education becoming a bigger part of school curricula. Outreach should be made to local lawmakers as well as statewide organizations.
  • Policymakers, educators, and farmers need to work together to fill in gaps in agricultural education; they should establish new programs for students at every grade level.
  • Zoning laws could be modified to allow small livestock animals, like chickens and 4–H animals, to be raised on school property as part of agricultural education programs.


The Utah County Farm Bureau and Utah State University Extension hosts Farm Field Days every year, which allows elementary-school students to visit local farms and directly experience local agricultural. Farm Field Days can be organized by any group of educators and agricultural producers, and the Utah Farm Bureau has funds to meet the cost of separately organized Farm Field Days.[1] The learning stations at Farm Field Days are designed to complement the curriculum objective, set by the Utah Office of Education, to maximize educational benefits for students.

Utah County 4–H established an Urban Sheep Project that allows students in the city to raise their own sheep on a nearby farm, providing them with valuable firsthand experience with livestock.[2]

The Utah State Office of Education has partnered with many Utah agencies and businesses to establish Agricultural Education Pathways, a program for high-school students interested in pursuing a career in one of five different agricultural focus areas. Pathways explores the different ways students can better understand, value, and become involved in agriculture in Utah. However, this program is not part of the statewide required curriculum and exists only as elective high-school courses that are limited in availability depending on location.[3] Many new agriculture jobs are opening up nationwide, and making agriculture a larger part of Utah students’ education will encourage them to pursue career opportunities in agriculture and strengthen the industry within the state.

The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is an organization for students looking to one day become part of the agricultural industry in any form. The FFA has individual chapters in each state, and the Utah branch provides scholarships and learning opportunities for Utah students interested in agriculture.[4]

Educate Elected Officials Across the County About the Importance of Agriculture and Their Roles in Promoting Its Future

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; universities; governmental organizations; advocacy organizations; and agricultural producers

Support for agriculture in Utah County among elected officials can vary widely, especially as new people with new ideas are voted in during every election cycle. Though land-use practices in Utah County often do not reflect the importance of sustaining agriculture, elected officials should prioritize agriculture in their agenda because of its tremendous economic and cultural effects on life in Utah County.

Though agricultural education is crucial for younger generations, older generations should not be overlooked in farming education efforts. Elected officials in Utah County should be continually educated about the current conditions and future possibilities of agriculture in the county. In some regions across the nation, hosting farm tours for elected officials has helped leaders better understand agriculture’s role in their communities. These tours have also allowed leaders to receive hands-on farming experiences, which help them better understand the benefits and opportunities provided by of agriculture, as well as the challenges farmers and ranchers face.

Policymakers would also benefit from assistance in writing grants to apply for funding that would support agriculture in their jurisdictions. The grant-writing process needs to be made more accessible and approachable through educational programs. Having county and city officials hold grant-writing workshops with farmers may also be helpful.


  • Agricultural experts from universities, state agricultural organizations, the farming industry, and advocacy organizations should continue to reach out to elected officials to help lawmakers understand the importance of agriculture in Utah County.
  • These experts should hold yearly field days to educate newly elected officials about farming and to connect them with important agricultural producers and agricultural businesses. Building relationships among elected officials, agricultural experts, advocacy organizations, and individual producers is crucial in ensuring that lawmakers have all the information needed to understand and create laws regarding agriculture.


The Utah Farm Bureau is politically active and involved in educating lawmakers about local and statewide issues that affect agriculture. The organization believes that change happens at a grassroots level and works closely at the county level to implement changes. The Utah Farm Bureau also promotes agricultural education at all levels, educating community members from lawmakers to students about different aspects of agriculture.[1]