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Utah is using $20 million to help farmers upgrade water systems

 Shot of an irrigation sprinkler system on a field
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) received a $20 million dollar grant for their Agriculture Water Optimization Program to continue helping farmers and ranchers upgrade systems to optimize their water use.

The UDAF received $70 million dollars for this program in 2022, and that year $50 million went towards the water optimization program. This year they granted the last $20 million.

Bailee Woolstenhulme, public information officer for the UDAF, said this grant money helps farmers and ranchers upgrade anything they need to improve their water use. The application period is open through May 31.

According to Woolstenhulme, every approved project will have a metering system to track water use. She said it’s useful to know how much water the farmers and ranchers are using during the drought since it’s always a concern.

“There may be estimates that are saying that we're using more water than we actually are," Woolstenhulme said. "And so, if we can have more accurate reporting on these types of things, we can better tell our story, and better talk about how much water is actually being used on our farms and ranches and getting more accurate data that way.”

Woolstenhulme said that farming isn’t very lucrative, and even though farmers and ranchers want to do all they can to conserve water, projects on that scale are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which the farmers typically do not have.

“And so, these grants make it possible for them to do that and to do what they know is right as far as being more efficient with their water use and optimizing their water use on their farms," Woolstenhulme said.

The program manager, Hannah Freeze, said the grant will pay half of the project price up to $500,000, and the farmer will provide the other half. She added that this project serves more than just conserving water — it also helps improve crop production because farmers and ranchers are watering more accurately.

But these aren’t the only goals Freeze wants to accomplish with this program. She hopes that people start to see more clearly what farmers and ranchers do for the community.

“They produce everything that they do for you and me and to benefit our communities," Freeze said "And so, I hope that that's another goal that we can accomplish is shed a better light on our farmers that they really are the heroes here.”

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