IN FOCUS Discussion: Growth in Utah (Agriculture & Open Lands)

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah’s population grew at 18.4 percent or 507,731 residents in the last ten years — the fastest rate in the nation. The growth is having a substantial impact on our state with a housing shortage, increased traffic on major roadways, more pollution in the air, a heightened demand in resources, and more. Over the next week, we will explore how population growth affects different areas of our sstate, with a different theme each night for our IN FOCUS discussions that include agriculture/open lands, transportation, air quality, water/drought, and housing.

In a study conducted by Your Utah, Your Future, respondents said they valued being self-sufficient in our food production and feel that agricultural lands and open space add scenic beauty to the state. Experts say some parts of the state is good for alfalfa, microclimates, and orchards. However with the Wasatch Front growing in a geographically confined space, agricultural land being looked at more and more for development.

Researchers say that the issue with developing agricultural land is that once you do it, you can’t get it back. Additionally, farmers are also facing labor shortages, high transportation costs, extreme drought, and an aging farming population. So what does the future of agriculture look like and what can be done to support it?

Ryan Beck, vice president of planning for Envision Utah joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. He explained what types of products are grown in Utah, how much is devoted to agriculture, how important agriculture is to Utah, the trends we’ve seen with global warming during the past few decades across the state, why his organization is interested in the growth impact on agriculture, what the future of agriculture looks like, and what it means for Utahns if we lose a good portion of our agricultural land.

Debbie Cloward with Allred Orchards and Ray Rowley with Cherry Hill Farms discussed what produce their businesses farm and sell, where their land is, the people they employ, how long they’ve been involved in agriculture, what produce Utah is most known for, how the extreme drought has impacted their businesses, how cities and agriculture can work together as our population grows, what they think the future of agriculture looks like in Utah, and what the state would lose with less agriculture overall in the state.

Linda Gillmor, director of marketing and economic development for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food talked about the various challenges that Utah’s agriculture producers are facing right now, the issues that can come with farmers getting older, issues with transportation costs, the state programs that help farmers in need, the kind of development that would be a good balance to allow for growth and keep as much agriculture land as possible, what’s being done to manage water during the drought, and what the community can do to help local farmers.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Beck, Cloward, Rowley, and Gillmor click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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