Update City Plans and Zoning Practices to Encourage Agriculture, Changing Regulations to Foster Farming and Better Manage Water

Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; and communities

Cities can help preserve local agriculture by updating their city plans and zoning practices to address and encourage agriculture and water management. Because agriculture is a major component of Utah County’s economy and heritage, specifically addressing agriculture and water will likely result in added protections and a greater emphasis on agriculture in city plans. Cities can provide significant assistance to farming operations, especially if, in their city plans, they make an effort to include farmers’ interests, preservation strategies, and other resources. Long range regional and city plans can promote the identification of prime farmlands that should be protected for future generations.


City plans and zoning practices change at the discretion of the planning staff, planning commission, and city governments. In each city, these organizations should decide to support agriculture within their boundaries so that this strategy becomes a more multifaceted one that will need to be implemented by each city.

  • Utah County and its individual cities should consider addressing agriculture in their general plans. If cities are encouraged to think about agriculture, preservation plans are less likely fall by the wayside.
  • City councils and planners should encourage agriculture through their general and land use plans. City councils and planners should note the widespread desire to protect agriculture and begin to focus on better understanding water management.[1] When creating or revising plans, planners should be guided by a number of considerations:[2]
  1. Development trends, plans, or needs in each community that may impact agricultural development and preservation in the community (including population growth, economic growth, housing stock, business development, environmental preservation, and more)
  2. Agricultural uses of land, including key agriculture specialties that are unique to farmers in each community
  3. Key agricultural resources, infrastructure, and facilities
  4. Anticipated changes to agricultural production, processing, supply, and distribution
  5. Goals for agricultural development in the community
  6. Means of increasing housing density in non-agricultural areas
  7. Key land issues related to farmland preservation and specific plans to address those issues
  • City councils and planners should update their municipality’s zoning practices, encouraging more compact development and increasing support for agricultural land uses. These practices preserve water and land throughout the county and can reduce the amount of farmlands consumed by new residential development.


Santaquin, Utah, has become a regional leader in agricultural preservation through careful planning and consideration of agriculture’s importance in the area. The city created a zoning designation specifically for agriculture in order to allow for specific protections that do not exist under commercial, residential, or industrial zoning classifications.[3] [4] Private landowners, for example, aren’t required to connect to the city’s water system if they are on a private system, an exemption that looks beyond traditional zoning and development practices and reduces the cost of infrastructure construction. Santaquin also works with local farmers to promote agritourism and other commercial agriculture enterprises through official city marketing and annual agricultural celebrations.

Many Midwestern states have robust plans for farmland and agricultural preservation; aspects of these plans can be adopted by Utah County and its cities. Wisconsin, for example, developed a statewide guide for counties to develop their own plans for farmland preservation, allowing counties to save farmland by expediting crucial preservation processes.[5] Iowa County, Wisconsin, developed a farmland preservation plan that implements the strategies found in the statewide guide, creating concrete, real world examples of some of the guide’s concepts.[6]