Policy priorities are paramount for a range of farm groups for the new year. The Utah Farm Bureau Federation recently released its list of key issues to watch for 2019. The group is working to implement its policy priorities for the 2019 Utah general legislative session.
The group has built the list from its policy book, which was adopted in November at its annual convention. This will guide the organization’s public policy actions through the year.
In a media statement listing the priorities, Ron Gibson, UFBF president and a Weber County dairy farmer, noted that it’s important to know that the policies “we fight for come from the grassroots level, from actual farmers and ranchers on the ground and in the trenches.”
He noted these policies were developed in a process that included debate and deliberation on issues that impact the state’s ability to grow food.
Here’s a rundown of what the group calls “Issues to Watch for in 2019” on the state level:
Right-to-farm laws. Most states in the U.S. have what are known as right-to-farm laws, used to help farmers and ranchers continue the work of growing crops and raising animals, while providing some protections from frivolous lawsuits. In recent years, some have quickly turned to lawsuits to settle some realities of production agriculture. Despite claiming that lawsuits won’t harm small farmers because they are directed at corporate agriculture ownership, the reality is that frivolous lawsuits impact all farmers and ranchers because of the operational relationship between corporate ownership and small family farms.
Utah’s existing right-to-farm laws reflect veterinary-approved and socially accepted practices, and yet recent reviews indicate needs to strengthen certain areas. Many protections under the current law only apply in agricultural protection areas, but those are mostly used in urban areas — leaving many farmers and ranchers in rural areas without the protections of the current law.
Private property rights. With the amount of public land in Utah, private property is a premium. As Utah’s population continues to grow, farmers and ranchers are increasingly dealing with the issue of urban encroachment.
In a growing economy, UFBF wants to make sure aggressive economic growth policies are not promoted at the expense of private property rights. Utah Farm Bureau wants to preserve and strengthen the principle of “willing buyer-willing seller,” and check abuses of eminent domain authority.
Sales tax reform. Recent legislative discussions have led to proposals and budget recommendations that directly impact Utah production agriculture and rural Utah. UFBF believes sound tax policy is best represented by fair sales, property and income taxes. Legislative proposals to change this balance should not negatively impact Utah agriculture.
Over the years since Utah’s tax code was developed, the state’s economy has change from a primarily goods-based economy to one based on services. Many of these services are not currently subject to sales taxes. This sets Utah up to be unbalanced in how it collects revenues. UFBF believes in the principle of expanding the base and lowering the rate in terms of tax policy. However, in taxing services — which are most commonly used in urban areas — what kind of impact can this have on Utah’s rural communities? How will rural cities and counties make up the revenue when previously relied-upon sources have changed?
There are more than 190 examples of sales tax exemptions on the books. Thirty-five of these exemptions are agriculture-related. Utah Farm Bureau supports a healthy tax reform debate and implementation but wants to ensure Utah farmers and ranchers are properly and adequately represented. Certain exemptions are appropriate to ensure sustainability of agriculture.
Water issues. With 3 million new residents expected to come to Utah, and with the federal government increasingly bowing out from funding major water development projects, Utah taxpayers will have to meet the state’s growing water infrastructure needs. This includes big-ticket items like the Lake Powell pipeline, as well as the day-to-day maintenance and construction of new and existing water infrastructure. This is often “out of sight, out of mind” for most residents.
The increased demand of water will need to be met by residential, agricultural and industrial users. This growth will be met by conserving existing water supplies, implementing water efficiencies — agricultural users moving from flood to sprinkler irrigation — and continued water development.
The group also outlined several national issues from wildfire and land management to trade, and from clean water rules to immigration reform. Each are part of the national American Farm Bureau Federation policy approach for 2019.
Source: Utah Farm Bureau Federation. The source is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.