Who can implement this: State, county, and city lawmakers; communities; governmental organizations; and agricultural producers
Agriculture Protection Areas (APAs) are designed to protect farming and ranching operations. Agricultural operations on land within an APA are given the “highest priority use status,” meaning they are valued from a regulatory perspective above residential and commercial uses. APAs are established for 20 years and can be modified, renewed, or terminated at the end of that period.
APAs help protect farmers against nuisance lawsuits, unreasonable restrictions from state and local agencies on farm structures and practices, changes in zoning designations, and roads cutting through their farms. They also serve to notify adjacent land buyers that they are purchasing land next to a protected farm operation. APAs help prevent smaller farms from being sold to developers, which makes more small farms available to beginning farmers and helps mitigate some of the inherent risks of small farms. These protected areas enable farmers to run their business with greater peace of mind and less worry about external forces disrupting their livelihoods.
Currently the requirements for establishing an Agriculture Protection Area are as follows:
- Each APA must be a minimum of 20 contiguous acres. A proposal for APA must be signed by the owners of a majority of the land within the area and include the following information:
- The boundaries of the potential APA
- Any limits on agricultural production in the area
- The names of owners of record of the land within the area
- The number of acres of each parcel within the area.
- Land may be added or removed from an APA at any time if a proposal to do so is approved by the county commission.
- Government and nonprofit organizations should educate local landowners about the benefits and limitations of APAs to help communities begin the process of establishing APAs.
- The Utah County Assessor’s Office should make an easily accessible APA application available online to increase the transparency of the process. Uintah County’s APA application is currently available online and breaks the process into steps that are easy to understand and follow.
- City councils and the Utah County Commission should pass an ordinance allowing for the automatic establishment of APAs that meet the minimum acreage requirement for agricultural production.
- The Utah legislature should lower the minimum APA acreage to five acres so that more lands can qualify for protections.
- Agricultural producers should work together to establish APAs in their communities. Though state law allows for the creation of APAs statewide, individual communities are responsible for overseeing the establishment of APAs in their jurisdictions. Cities should establish committees to identify possible APAs and work with landowners to simplify the application process.
Utah state law allows for the creation of APAs statewide, with each county adapting and modifying the process to meet their specific needs and to improve implementation. The Utah County Code specifically addresses APAs and establishes an APA Advisory Board to assist in the creation of APAs across the county.
Today Utah County has over 70 APAs on every side of Utah Lake. These APAs are valuable tools for protecting farmland in both urban and rural areas across the county.