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Gov. Cox talks water rights with Cache Valley farmers and ranchers

Gov. Cox addresses question at town hall.
Max McDermott
/
Utah Public Radio
Utah Governor Spencer Cox addresses questions from Cache Valley farmers and ranchers.

During a visit to Cache Valley last Thursday, Governor Spencer Cox held an agricultural town hall meeting at the Cache Valley Event Center.

A farmer himself, Cox expressed his commitment to agriculture to the many farmers and ranchers in attendance.

“I want to try to do everything we can to set up agriculture for at least the next 30 years. So that if I'm the last governor that has an opportunity to do this, we leave agriculture in a much better place, so that we can sustain these farms and move forward,” Cox said.

Many attendees expressed concern that the public has a negative perception of agriculture, especially as it relates to their use of water during a historic drought. Cox said that while no one knows how long the drought is going to last "we all have to operate as if it's going to continue."

“Agriculture is part of the solution when it comes to additional water for our state. We have an obligation to find ways to conserve, and you're doing that," Cox said. "That's why we set aside, with the legislature, $70 million for ag optimization this year. We could use more.

Addressing questions about water rights and Great Salt Lake, Governor Cox said he’d like to give farmers the option to make money by conserving water for the lake.

“These are your water rights. I'm not here to take them away. That's not what I'm about at all. Period. End of story. But, everyone benefits from preserving the Great Salt Lake, everyone in the state. So the way we do that, and the way we are attacking this is, let's set taxpayer money aside and then let you decide what you want to do with those rights," Cox said.

"Now, this is what I mean; let's say you could do some optimization projects and have more water available. You could irrigate more land, or you could lease that water to the Great Salt Lake and get paid for it, and maybe make more than you would by increasing production," Cox added. "That's how I see it working. Not an either/or. I’m not going to tell you what to do with your water, but I want to give you other opportunities to be compensated for allowing your water to benefit the state by going to the Great Salt Lake."

During the town hall, Cox stressed the historical importance of agriculture to the infrastructure of the state and even to the protection and conservation of land.