The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is working to raise public awareness about the values of protecting critical lands such as farmland, wetlands, and other open spaces.
A great way to protect your Agriculture land is through an Agriculture Protection Areas (APAs). APAs provide legal protection for agricultural land uses and activities, it also provides notice to neighboring landowners that they border an APA and should expect normal agricultural activities to take place.
Individual counties and cities choose whether to allow APAs in their area and applications are made to the county or city. APAs are completely voluntary, landowners choose to place their land in an APA, and they can remove their land from Ag Protection at any time.
Some of the protections that APAs provide to landowners are:
- Prevents a county, city or town from “enacting a local law, ordinance, or regulation . . . that would unreasonably restrict: . . . a farm structure or farm practice.” (17-41-402)
- Prevents a zoning change on the property without written approval from the landowner. (17-41-402)
- Provides a legal defense against nuisance claims if the activity is “not in violation of any federal, state, or local law or regulation relating to the alleged nuisance or were conducted according to sound agricultural practices” (17-41-403)
- Increased protection from eminent domain, “A political subdivision having or exercising eminent domain powers may not condemn for any purpose any land within an agriculture protection area that is being used for agricultural production . . . unless the political subdivision obtains approval, according to the procedures and requirements of this section, from the applicable legislative body and the [Agriculture] advisory board”. (17-41-405)
- Requires the following statement to be attached to the deed of each property that borders within 300 of the APA: “This property is located in the vicinity of an established agricultural protection area in which normal agricultural uses and activities have been afforded the highest priority use status. It can be anticipated that such agricultural uses and activities may now or in the future be conducted on property included in the agricultural protection area. The use and enjoyment of this property is expressly conditioned on acceptance of any annoyance or inconvenience which may result from such normal agricultural uses and activities.” (17-41-403)
APA has proven to be a simple, inexpensive tool to help protect Utah Agriculture. As with all tools, APAs work well in the right situation but may not work in all situations. APAs have 20-year lifespan, they can be reviewed at the end of 20 years and either renewed or allowed to expire. If you believe that an APA may be beneficial to you, contact your county or city. If you are looking for more permanent protection for your land you may consider a conservation easement through the LeRay McAllister Program.