COVID-19 and the drought has brought about many uncertainties in the agriculture community. Lower yields and raising feed prices have farmers working to make ends meet. I had the opportunity to speak with Governor Spencer Cox about farmers here in northern Utah. While my conversation focused on northern Utah, the message he shares is universal throughout the state.
Farmers are resilient. That’s the common phrase people in agriculture say when asked to describe a farmer. Governor Spencer Cox is no acceptation.
“My hope is that people, farmers, as they begin to get older, will see the wisdom in keeping those farms alive, and making sure that they're passed on to the next generation. So we have to make policy decisions that make that possible,” Cox said.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes farmers and ranchers have to sell their land to developers, something that we have been seeing more of in Cache Valley.
“We're looking for opportunities, specifically coming out of this drought and COVID, which has been a back-to-back hit for our ag community, making sure that we have capital available for them to keep them in business," Cox said. "And then making sure that we're using infrastructure funding, as it comes to us, to invest in in ways that will keep ag going for generations to come.”
Different areas of the state, such as education and energy, have ten-year plans in place for state investments. Agriculture currently does not have one.
Cox said that they are working closely with the agriculture community to put together a ten and thirty year plan.
“One area where we know we need more is the ability for meat processing," said Cox. "So that producers here have some place to get their meat processed so that they can then get to get to market”
Access to meat processesors is not a new problem. All over the country, producers have been struggling with this issue
“Far too often those are controlled out of state or by a small number of organizations," said Cox. "And it makes it untenable for local producers. So so that's one area where perhaps we could see some investment in the years to come."
Cox said that the legislator is working on getting more resources to farmers including low interest loans for those struggling from the drought.