Farmland protection bill advances to Senate

Preservation • Measure would give farmers tool against eminent domain
This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Legacy Highway expansion was under discussion a few years ago, the original plan was to go with Bluff road. However, when it was discovered that there would be some wetlands issues with that route, the plan changed and the Utah Department of Transportation began looking further west — where some prime agricultural land is located.

But talks between farmers and UDOT resulted in UDOT backing off, leaving the farmland alone.

Leonard M. Blackham, Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food, said that's not the typical outcome; usually roads and development prevail.

Prime farmland is fast disappearing across the Wasatch front and is expected to be gone by 2030. It's often at the bottom of the list of important, protected land, according to Blackham.

To change that, Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring SB46, the Agriculture Sustainability Act, which is headed to the full Senate after unanimous approval Tuesday by the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

"This bill will help wetlands from trumping agriculture lands," Blackham said. "It's purpose is to create a tool to help a farmer maintain his ability to farm and keep the local government from coming in and stopping that" through eminent domain.

Committee Chairman Ralph Okerlund said, "If we lose these critical lands it's not just devastating for the Wasatch front but for the whole state."