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Gov. Spencer J. Cox explains effects of drought on Utah’s agricultural sector

July 16, 2021

Tags: Rural

LAYTON (July 16, 2021) — Gov. Spencer J. Cox joined Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Craig Buttars and Layton farmer Tyson Roberts to discuss the adverse effects of Utah’s lingering drought on the state’s farms and ranches. 

“Utah farms and ranches have seen water cuts from 70-75% across the state,” Gov. Cox said. “I’m grateful to our farmers and ranchers for doing their part to conserve water, but we know these cutbacks will have a direct effect on the food we eat and on every aspect of our economy. As a state, we stand ready to help our farmers and ranchers through an extremely trying time.”

According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, 100% of Utah is experiencing drought conditions. At 58% of normal, Utah reservoir levels are lower now than they were at the end of the 2020 irrigation season last October. 

Knowing water would be scarce this year, farmers planted less hay and alfalfa. The resulting shortage in feed has caused prices for hay to skyrocket, doubling over the last few months, according to the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture. Because it’s become too expensive to feed livestock, some ranchers are selling off their livestock, with some auctions reporting a 300% increase in cattle sales.

It will take years for Utah’s agricultural sector to recover, said Commissioner Craig Buttars of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

“The effects of this unprecedented drought are massive and will be felt by every sector of the economy,” Buttars said. “We must work to support farmers and ranchers to support food security locally and ensure producers are able to maintain economically viable operations and can continue to grow and raise food and fiber for us all.”

Tyson Roberts, who owns and operates Roberts Family Farms in Layton, said farmers use science to raise more food on less land and using less water, but the drought has farmers struggling. 

“Both the quality and the yield of our crops are down,” Roberts said. “We’re in survival mode and we appreciate the state offering help during this difficult time.”

For more information about how the state is helping Utah farmers and ranchers, please visit ag.utah.gov/droughtresources/.

View a recording of today’s press conference here and photo gallery here.

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