Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

Commissioner Adams' Commentary on Utahn's Support for Agriculture

 

More than ever: Utahns want to eat what they grow

 

We may have just turned the corner in our efforts to connect Utahns with their local food suppliers, our family farmers and ranchers.

A recent survey shows that three out of four Utahns believe that farming and ranching are critical to the future of Utah.  Those same respondents said that agriculture helps maintain the land and values that are so important to making Utah a great place to live.  The survey was conducted by Envision Utah in conjunction with their Build Your 2050 Utah campaign. Comments are still being taken on the subject at www.envisionutah.org/    

The survey shows that during the past seven years, a substantial number of people have altered their perception of the importance of Utah agriculture.   In 2007 53 percent of those contacted said they thought farming and ranching were critical to the state.  Today, 74 percent feel that way.   In a state that imports the bulk of its food, this awakening to the importance of the food we grow in Utah is a positive sign. Many of the respondents voted online to increase production of protein foods like beef and poultry as well as increase grains, dairy, and fruits and vegetables, even if it meant paying more at the grocery store. These results are in line with views expressed in the past; that protecting our local food source protects our self-sufficiency, reduces our carbon footprint, and contributes to our economy.

Utah is self-sufficient in several food categories that include meats, eggs and other protein sources; but we produce only 10 percent of our daily nutritional needs in fruits and vegetable.  Unfortunately their growing areas are the most threatened by development.

The benefits of sustainable farming and ranching extend beyond the grocery store.  I believe the more Utahns see the big picture, the more they will appreciate and support the broader issues associated with farming and ranching. One such issue is integrating technology with agriculture; because as farmland acres shrink and populations grow, more food is needed from each acre.

Modern agriculture in Utah is using Internet and smartphone technology to improve our air, water and land resources.  Water conserving center pivot irrigation systems are saving millions of gallons of water annually. These high tech sprinklers allow farmers to customize watering patterns and flow rates via their smartphone anywhere in the world. And believe it or not, the pivots can text farmers to report a problem. 

Technology is at work in Weber County where sheep man Junior Goring installed a series of new age solar-powered pumps and underground piping to extend his watering troughs and livestock over a wider area.  This innovation prevents the animals from over compacting the soil.  The upgrade allows Goring to double the size of his herd without degrading the land. These efficiencies let farmers enjoy sustainable profits that they spend in their local communities.

New farming technology allows our farmers to meet increasing demand. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census reports Utahns spent nearly 60 percent more on foods they buy directly from farmers than they did five years ago.   Our state’s Utah’s Own program is helping farmers bring their products to market, and we’re connecting consumers with these new products at www.utahsown.org/  

As the head of a state agency that is working to expand the quantity and quality of our food supply, I am encouraged by the growing public support for agriculture.  But this shouldn't be just a feel-good moment for farmers and ranchers.  These numbers reveal a strong statement from an expanding population that believes their food supply matters.   Those of us who work in agriculture hope that our private sector and government leaders recognize this growing support for agriculture as they consider future policy decisions.

 

 See a Deseret News article on this topic.

 See this video on the popularity of local foods.  (Courtesy of The County Seat TV program)

  

 

 

 

 

posted: December 16, 2014