Utah farmers work against inflation, labor shortages and drought

WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – As temperatures edge closer to the 90s on the Wasatch Front, water supplies will continue to decline. The ever-changing drought continues to affect Utah farmers. As they battle inflation, labor shortages and water cuts, Utahans are encouraged to buy local when possible.

According to a study by Utah State University, Utah is home to nearly 11 million acres of farmland. About 80 percent of this land is used for grazing and 15 percent of this land is devoted to crops.

“There are several factors that make it really difficult to be a farmer right now,” Kenny McFarland told ABC4. He’s a farmer in Weber County. His family has been farming the land for generations. McFarland Farm is just one of an estimated 18,000 farms in Utah.

“We’re proud of what we’re trying to do and have a good product, a safe product, a cheap product,” McFarland said. “It’s really, really difficult emotionally for us to try to maintain that legacy.” He explained that inflation, labor shortage, late frost and continued drought are all working against the agricultural industry at this time.

The state has experienced drought conditions in eight of the past 10 years. Water restrictions are in place across the state and residents and farmers should reduce their water usage.

“Farmers and ranchers use 85% of our water,” Bailee Woolstenhulme of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food told ABC4. She further explained that many people want to vilify the agricultural sector for using so much water. However, she said it was not that simple. There’s a reason he needs the water he uses. “They provide us with food and sustenance to help us in our daily lives,” she said. “And a lot of that water is regenerated and reused in a positive way.”

“If we all work together, I think we can get through this and be okay, water-wise,” McFarland said.

According to the USU study, most of Utah’s cropland is devoted to growing corn, alfalfa, wheat and barley. However, the McFarland family devotes over 1,000 acres to production. McFarland told ABC4 that about 85% of their yield is sold to local grocery stores and the remaining 15% is sold direct to consumer.

McFarland and Woolstenhulme encourage Utahns to buy local produce, meats and groceries when possible. Especially at a time when it seems like the odds are stacked against Utah farmworkers.

In the coming weeks, local produce stands will be popping up across the state. Those who know how to preserve food for storage are encouraged to purchase additional products (when and if they can) to produce and preserve it.

Officials say it is a way to maximize the water that has been used to grow this year’s crops. “It’s also a great way to have food security, and it helps farmers, it helps consumers, it’s great practice,” McFarland added.

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