Thou shalt not steal is among the big 10, but when it comes to assembling a talented team, new Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner (UDAF) Kerry Gibson confesses the State’s agriculture community will be richly blessed.
That’s because UDAF recently ‘stole’ the talents of Redge Johnson from the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office (PLPCO) to serve as director of Strategic Initiatives. At UDAF he will be overseeing performance measures, mission direction, planning with State, local and federal agencies, among other things.
“Redge has been a powerful voice in the public land policy arena for PLPCO and I am certain his presence will be missed,” said Gibson. “However, his deep background in ranching and agricultural redevelopment, coupled with more recent work in land and resource management will be invaluable as we work with our industry producers and federal partners to facilitate sound public policy.”
Johnson is a native of Utah and brings extensive experience in agriculture, planning and leadership to UDAF. His family has been in the ranching industry since the 1800’s in Southern Utah, mostly Wayne County and Sevier County. Johnson grew up helping his family operate the Cedar Livestock Market for more than 20 years, adding an education in the market side of animal production.
He also worked in the commercial agriculture real estate industry for over 20 years, with a focus on marketing farms and ranches. During this time he was a principal in over 35 projects that ‘flipped’ farms, ranches and recreation properties. Through this experience, he understands many of the challenges that face our agriculture producers and rural economies.
Most recently, Johnson directed the creation and implementation of numerous programs. He organized, motivated and assisted all of Utah’s 29 counties to create County Resource Management Plans. These plans meticulously coordinated 28 natural resource-related topics including grazing, water rights, forest and rangeland Management, oil, gas and mining activities, access to public lands and socio-economic analysis of multiple-use lands.
The County plans were then used as the basis for the Utah State Resource Management Plan he authored and implemented. These plans are used today to facilitate coordination and cooperating agency regulations with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
“I’ve worked very hard to bridge communications, planning, and execution activities among federal officials and the agriculture community my entire career,” said Johnson. “So in every respect, this new opportunity to serve under Commissioner Gibson and the state’s agriculture producers is something I am very excited about and confident in.”
The Governor’s Office also tasked Johnson with leading the Grazing Resolution Group. This effort was a combination of state agencies brought together to resolve challenges and promote opportunities for Utah grazers. The Governor’s Office, Attorney General Office, Department of Agriculture and Food, Department of Natural Resources, congressional staff and local leaders joined together to find and implement solutions with federal partners.
The team organized hundreds of meetings across Utah to hear the concerns of grazers then met with relevant agencies to resolve conflicts or promote opportunities. The efforts of the team created a direct benefit to local producers and rural economies, along with better relations between state and federal partners.