Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Agriculture Sustainability Task Force Comments

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(435) 279-3603

Comments offered June 19, 2011 by the Chairman of the State GIP Board, Jay Tanner.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the Grazing Improvement program. Thanks also to Commissioner Blackham for his leadership in establishing the program and for your continued support of the program.

I feel a little like a fish I saw mounted on the wall the other day. Under the fish was a sign that said "If I hadn't opened my mouth I wouldn't be here".

Since 2006 UGIP has funded about 300 projects with a total cost of $15,767,464, and $5,686,239 provided by UGIP. The projects have affected 1,642,890 acres of range land in the state of Utah. This indicates that for every dollar provided by UGIP two other dollars have been added from other sources to complete the projects.

The cow calf segment of Utah agriculture is the largest individual part of Utah agriculture. Nearly all of the cattle and sheep in Utah spend the majority of their time on range lands. Utah range land is owned privately, by the BLM, Forest Service, SITLA, and Indian tribes. Most of the open land in Utah is grazed at some time during the year with the exception of some military areas, some Park lands, and critical watershed areas. Grazing is a renewable resource. Cattle, sheep and wildlife harvest the grasses, forbs and shrubs and convert them into food and fiber for human consumption. In addition to providing food and fiber well managed rangelands help with weed control and fire control. The rangelands of Utah also offer great recreation for the public and serve as home to wildlife and the watersheds provide water for our agriculture and culinary needs.

Projects supported by UGIP include, tree and brush control, grazing management, water projects, fire rehabilitation and rangeland planting. An important part of the projects are monitoring to protect the projects and to evaluate the effectiveness of the projects. UGIP also has purchased rangeland drills and other equipment and leases it to producers and agencies for range projects and fire rehab.

The state is divided into 5 areas and has an appointed board of producers in each region. The state board has one representative from each region and other at large members. The local boards set priorities for their region and rank projects based on those priorities. The state board sets overall priorities and reviews the projects from the regions. UGIP also administers money the state receives from the federal government from the 12.5% of grazing fees paid to the BLM. A coordinator from UGIP lives in each region. That person helps to plan projects, provides support for the regional boards, helps producers locate funding for projects and manages UGIP's equipment. These coordinators are very important to the success of the program and serve also to encourage better range stewardship and work with permittees with the federal agencies.

The UGIP has great support from the ranchers in the state. Each year more good projects are submitted and the competition for the limited funding is greater. In addition to funding projects UGIP has provided great leadership for better stewardship of the states rangelands. As we move forward it appears to me that we need to take a broader view of grazing policy. We need to look more at larger landscape issues throughout the state.

We need to be more involved with helping the federal agencies to manage and monitor the public lands in Utah. UGIP can serve as a go between the grazers and public administrators to help resolve issues and mediate conflicts and to encourage worthwhile projects on public lands.

Currently UGIP is very involved in a landowner led CRMP in Rich County. This project will have significant impacts on the grazing and agriculture in that county. Without the help of UGIP that process would struggle and would possibly fail.

In my area of Box Elder County we are establishing a CRMP that will have significant impact on the Northwest comer of the state. This plan will take a landscape look at grazing and watershed management. It is hoped that by looking at landscape issues we can better support wildlife and agriculture in these areas.

Funding is always an issue for state government. I thank you for your support of UGIP in the past and encourage you to continue funding into the future. It seems to me that we should look for ways to fund these landscape projects and support rangeland projects which benefit the public through wildlife habitat, watershed improvement, air quality, and improved profitability for agriculture producers.

Thank you.