The physical loss of farmland is most often irreversible, and is one of the most challenging issues facing agriculture nationwide. The acreage of fruit production alone in Utah was cut in half between 1987 and 2006. If this trend continues, nearly all of Utah’s orchards will be eliminated by 2050. Water is another major concern and source of tension between agricultural and residential uses as additional residential development continues to require larger shares of Utah County’s water supply. Utah County should focus on protecting existing and future agricultural lands and water in order to provide local food and agricultural products for county and state residents in the future.
Protecting Utah County’s agricultural lands and preserving natural resources like water and soil are priorities now more than ever, as population growth across the state threatens to consume additional farmland and water resources are reallocated with every new construction project. Existing farmland can be protected from encroaching development through a variety of means, especially if agriculture’s true social, economic, and environmental value is understood by residents, developers, and lawmakers.
Section One: Proactive, Non-prescriptive Preservation Measures
Cities often treat agriculture as a land and water holding zone that will inevitably be converted into new housing developments and businesses in order to provide revenue for the city. These development patterns determine how quickly farms and ranches disappear. When development is more compact, more land and water stays in agriculture. However, lawmakers must be more proactive about preserving agriculture in order to ensure its continued presence in Utah County. The following strategies help lawmakers specifically address and actively combat the problems and threats agriculture is currently facing.
SECTION TWO: Zoning and Other Prescriptive Preservation Measures
Not all governmental action needs to be specifically focused on one specific issue in order to benefit agriculture in Utah County. Land use patterns (enforced by ordinances and zoning) that encourage new housing and business developments to be built within existing urban areas allow for a wider range of housing options and remove regulatory burdens to better support farming. Making changes to existing plans, regulations, ordinances, and codes can have a significant impact on the ways land is developed and can improve how cities view agriculture, easing some of the common regulatory barriers farmers and ranchers face.