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Utah Agriculture: Nourishing OUR Sustainable Future

Farmers and ranchers have long been considered the original conservationists. Working day in and day out, cultivating the many resources provided by mother nature, no one is closer to the Earth than those working in agriculture and because the livelihood of these farmers and ranchers is dependent on it and its resources. No one knows better than farmers and ranchers about the need to take care of the earth’s resources and ensure it is sustainable for future generations. They are constantly innovating and improving their practices to better protect and benefit the land, while continuing to provide food and fiber for the United States and the world.

Modern agriculture may look a little different than what most people envision. We no longer live in a world where the majority of the population farm small plots of land to support their families and maybe a few others, rather modern agriculture is made up of 2% of the U.S. population farming and ranching larger plots of land, growing the food and fiber for the remaining 98%. Despite the increase in size, 95% of these farms remain family owned and operated.

Read the full Salt Lake Tribune article, by clicking here.



UDAF Grant: $20 Million Available for Agricultural Water Optimization Projects

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is pleased to announce the opening of a new application period for the Agriculture Water Optimization Program, offering $20 million in funding for the improvement of irrigation systems on Utah farms and ranches and water delivery projects.

The Agricultural Water Optimization Program was initially funded in the 2019 Legislative Session with the purpose of reducing consumptive water use while maintaining or improving agriculture production; improving water quantification to provide real-time, accurate measurements; and to improve and protect surface and ground water quality by reducing the overwatering of crops.

“We are excited to continue to aid Utah farmers and ranchers in improving their irrigation practices and optimizing their water use,” said Commissioner Craig Buttars. “Our agricultural producers know the importance of being part of the solution to improving the use of Utah’s water and we expect to see another large influx of applications for this program.”

During the 2022 Legislative Session, the Utah Legislature provided $70 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for this program. In 2022, $50 million of this ARPA funding was distributed to 241 projects; the remaining $20 million of ARPA funds will be awarded during the Spring 2023 application cycle. Applicants can receive a 50/50 cost share grant up to $500,000 to complete their projects; a real-time water meter with data storage and retrieval capabilities is required for all funded projects.

The Agricultural Water Optimization program has funded 276 projects with a total of $53 million in funds distributed. These projects equate to an estimated water savings of 172,847 acre feet a year, or 56 billion gallons of water saved each year from the completed projects.

The Agricultural Water Optimization Program is managed by Hannah Freeze, who was recently selected for the position. Freeze will be a great resource for Utah’s farmers and ranchers in implementing these projects throughout the state. She will be supported by Benjamin Hudson, who will continue working with this program as the assistant manager.

The application period is open from April 17 to May 31, 2023. For more information and to learn how to apply, visit here.

High Moisture Potential Impacts on Animal Feeding Operations

The precipitation we have received in the State of Utah this water year has been recordbreaking. While this moisture was badly needed, we must now deal with the flooding that will surely ensue. We realize that many of you may be at or near capacity on your animal waste storage ponds, bunkers and other structures, and that crop fields are completely saturated making the application of animal waste almost impossible. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is concerned about our agricultural producers, and have been in discussions with our partners at the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) to develop the best approach to prevent, to the extent possible, animal waste from entering into adjacent ditches and waterbodies, and reduce the possibility of DWQ enforcement, which includes potential penalties. If you are at risk of having wastewater leave your operation, or if this has already occurred, we recommend that you do the following

  1. Contact Don Hall at DWQ within 24 hours of a discharge, at (801) 536-4492 or If you haven’t discharged, but it may be a possibility, keep Don in the loop.
  2. Keep records of the precipitation you are getting at your farm and document the efforts you have made to avoid having a discharge. Take pictures to document before and after conditions at your location.
  3. If you must discharge, please do so to your fields. We understand that soils are completely saturated, but we have been advised that pumping ponds, bunkers, or other structures directly into canals, ditches, or other waters of the state violates the Utah Water Quality Act. If possible, make an effort to berm the fields and retain wastewater on site.

DWQ has given us the guidance to avoid discharges, if possible, and to promptly notify DWQ if any occur or are planned. If you are enrolled in AgVIP through UDAF, and have followed your nutrient management plan, you may be protected from penalties resulting from a discharge resulting from catastrophic weather and snow-melt events

We understand that many of you have implemented all the best management practices available to handle animal waste, and appreciate your continued efforts to protect water quality. If you have questions or want to talk with an expert at UDAF, please contact Hannah Freeze at (435) 764-6258