Legal issues highlight
Farm Bureau meeting
By James Tilson
Mar. 22, 2018
EPHRAIM—Issues such as Utah’s resource management plan, gasoline tax, water metering, homemade food production, fences and vermin shooting came up at the Utah Farm Bureau’s recent meeting.
At the Spring Issue Surfacing Meeting on Thursday, March 15, on the Snow College campus in Ephraim, three individuals informed members of legislation and policy decisions of importance to the agricultural community in Sanpete County.
Rep. Derrin Owens (Utah State District 58), Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nelson and Sterling Brown, lobbyist for Farm Bureau, each discussed recent legal issues of note to Farm Bureau members.
Owens informed the audience of H.B. 249, the Statewide Resource Management Plan Adoption statute, which had been passed by both the state House and Senate and was awaiting the governor’s signature.
Owens said this bill was important because it provides a local statute governing state or federal land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service would be affected by this, since regulations of both agencies state the agency must adhere to state and local resource management plans.
Owens then told the audience changes to the state’s 24.5-cent gasoline tax could be in the pipeline.
The revenues from the tax only meet half of the state’s transportation needs. The legislature must dip into the sales tax to meet the remaining funding needs, thus hurting other needs.
Owens said the legislature is considering a “usage fee,” which could potentially have a disproportionate impact on rural areas. The legislature is also considering a further 10-cent fee on gasoline and tolling certain roads in the state.
Brown told the audience about two other bills of concern to the Sanpete agricultural community.
S.B. 204, the Secondary Water Metering Requirements bill, “requires a secondary water provider that begins providing new secondary water service on or after May 2018 to meter the use of water.” Owen explained the bill removed agricultural users from the requirements of the bill in committee; however, the bill was removed from consideration before being voted on by the entire Senate.
Brown explained the concept of “water banking.” This is where a property owner takes excess water that is not used by the owner and leases it to another user. Brown pointed out the concept has been used in Colorado and Idaho successfully and is likely to be considered by the Utah legislature in the near future.
Brown pointed out the passage of H.B. 181, the Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act. The bill passed both the House and Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Language from the bill itself states: “Home-based producers may be exempt from certain state, county or city regulations regarding the preparation, serving, use, consumption or storage of food and food products that are: produced and sold within the state; sold directly to an informed final consumer; and for home consumption.”
The Farm Bureau opposed the bill, worried that the bill may have a negative impact on public safety and business fairness.
Brown noted the bill did not cover beef or dairy products, and any items sold under the bill’s exemptions would have to be labeled as such.
Nelson spoke regarding the county’s “fence in, fence out” policy.
He told the audience Sanpete, by state statute, is a “fence out” (in other words, a property owner is responsible to “fence out” any free-range livestock) county, unless it passes an ordinance to change the status. No one is currently pushing to change that ordinance, but the county commission would welcome input from the public.
Nelson said the commission has been looking into amending the “spotlight” ordinance to allow exceptions for “vermin” species.
Currently, property owners have the ability to “spotlight,” meaning look for marauding animals in vehicles, as long as they step out of any vehicle to shoot at the animal.
The county is thinking about allowing property owners to designate an agent to hunt those animals for them.