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Utah announces $1 million fund for agricultural conservation easements in Utah

A person holds several light orange cherry tomatoes in their hands.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced a $1 million funding opportunity for agricultural conservation easements in Utah.

This fund, known as the LeRay McAllister Working Farm and Ranch Fund, is intended to protect the working farms and lands across the state of Utah and ensure a secure future.

“What we're trying to do is prevent working farms and ranches from being converted to homes or to commercial areas where they can no longer produce food, and the things that we need for the state,” said Jeremy Christensen, land conservation program manager with the department.

Applications for the funding are now available until August 16.

“In order to be eligible for this funding, a landowner would need to partner with an entity like a land trust. You'd need to have that entity to sponsor your application. They will be the ones who apply for you on your behalf as the landowner and help you access those farms,” Christensen said.

Every dollar the state invests comes with an additional investment from the federal government or other private foundations or investors, which means every dollar spent gets leveraged and furthers the impact of the state's initial investment.

“And it also really helps kind of showcase the fact that you have a lot of different stakeholders who are invested in making sure that we can continue to produce food in our state to feed our growing population,” Christensen said.

For the first time in the 24-year history of the program, the department has a permanent and ongoing appropriation, Christensen said. So every year, the legislature will give $1 million to this program for more future security.

“So we're continually looking for new funding sources and new ways to leverage the money that we have through the state to be able to help more landowners and make sure that we can continue to face this challenge — being the fastest growing state in the nation,” Christensen said.

Hannah Castro is a junior at Utah State University studying Journalism and Public relations. Her parents were born and raised in Ecuador and migrated to the States before she was born. Hannah loves all things music and usually has a concert lined up. She enjoys being active, and recently ran her first half marathon in Salt Lake City. Hannah enjoys writing and can’t wait to further her skills at Utah Public Radio.