The practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil to grow crops and the rearing of animals to provide food or other products.

Related resource topics for county planning include the following:


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Resource Information
Agriculture became an integral endeavor of the counties in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch Counties as pioneers settled in the area. Agriculture was not new to the western United States, but the intensity and scale of crop production significantly increased the demand created by the pioneer settlers. Crops including fruits and vegetables but primarily grains are all grown in Utah’s soils. Feed crops intended for livestock make up much of the state’s production. Additionally, many materials used for technological purposes are derived from crops, such as building materials and medical supplies.

In 2011 the State of Utah established the Agriculture Sustainability Task Force to address increased pressure on Utah agriculture from urban development, changing demographics, economic pressures, as well as a number of other issues in order to assist policy makers and citizens in understanding agriculture’s critical role in promoting Utah’s security, economy, society, culture, and wellbeing. The policy statement of the task force was as follows: “Prime, important and unique agricultural lands and soils are vital to sustain life. The protection of prime agricultural lands should be given the same consideration as other lands by federal agencies, the State of Utah, and its political subdivisions. It is important these lands be conserved for our food security needs.” The task force report addressed grazing and public land; confined animal production agriculture; grains, specialty row crops, fruits, and vegetables; and food security–urban interface. This effort resulted in a number of proposed actions for the State, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, and local and federal governments along with a call to action [1].

The 2015 Annual Report by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food states that, “Nearly 95 percent of Utahns believe farming and ranching are important to the future of the state [2].” The preservation of agricultural lands and resources is seen by many to provide tangible value to the state and/or intrinsic character to the lifestyle of its communities. This same report indicates that in 2014 there were 18,100 farms on 11,000,000 acres in Utah.

The Soil Survey data along with this key to Soil Orders can be used to identify areas of the county with soil suitable for agriculture.

The number of farms in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties and the acres of land occupied by farming activities has varied in the past (see table below). Every 5 years, the US Department of Agriculture releases a census report on agriculture from those counties [3] [4] [5]. The number of farms has increased by almost 20% since 2002 while the average size of the farms has decreased at the same rate. Another interesting change is a 14% reduction in irrigated farmland since 2002. This is likely do to conversion of irrigated farmlands to urban uses.

Number and size of farms in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties from 2002 to 2012, [3] [4] [5].
Summit County
Number of farms557629618
Land in farms (acres)375,689414,928270,061
Irrigated land (acres)28,33223,96020,775
Utah County
Number of farms2,0462,1752,462
Land in farms (acres)343,072345,634343,077
Irrigated land (acres)84,91977,45775,167
Wasatch County
Number of farms380432450
Land in farms (acres)69,61265,935149,224
Irrigated land (acres)13,78717,42012,420
Total number of farms2,9833,2363,530
Total land in farms (acres)788,373826,497762,362
Total irrigated land in farms (acres)127,038118,837108,362

When planning for agriculture-related policy and land use, a central consideration is the availability of affordable, productive land. Determining the value of agricultural land is based upon four different categories describing distinct and sometimes competing values:

  • Potential Agricultural Output Value is the summation of all the characteristics that quantify the efficiency of the land for the range of appropriate agricultural uses.
  • Return on Investment is the profitability of the land to the farmer or rancher.
  • Purchase Value of the land is the sale price of the land at market value.
  • Intrinsic Value perceived by the community is the non-quantifiable value of the land, the preservation of which is often pursued by local jurisdictions or various interest groups.

Maintaining viable and productive agricultural operations in western U.S. is often a challenge due to generally arid inland conditions. However, county-wide assessments prepared by the Utah Association of Conservation Districts not that of these counties [6] [7] [8] [9]. The Annual Precipitation data can be used to identify the dryer and wetter areas of a county. Agricultural land that uses water for irrigation can be identified from the Water-Related Landuse data, the Canals data and the Flowline (ditches and canals) data.

Factors affecting agricultural productivity include:

  • Water supply and qualityLack of protection and vision for arable lands
  • Urban development
  • Displacement or fragmentation of farms
  • Reallocation of irrigation water
  • Changes in roadways and circulation routes needed to transport agricultural products
  • Acceptability of agriculture activity in the urban interface
  • Loss of productivity to invasive species and weeds
  • Plant and animal disease
  • Soil quality
  • Air quality
  • Regulations on resources may also impact agriculture productivity

Best Management Practices

Agriculture best management practices (BMPs) are those activities that allow for effective production of agricultural products while preserving the viability of natural resources. The BMPs may be applicable to a single resource or multiple resources. For example, a BMP intended to reduce soil erosion would benefit soil productivity, water quality, and air quality resources. A number of federal, state, and county agencies are continually monitoring and addressing conditions affecting the science of agriculture in Utah. BMPs are updated as circumstances change and knowledge increases regarding either productivity or resource preservation. The agencies are then able to implement those BMPs on the land they manage, and train or encourage private landowners to implement them on private land. This collaborative process ensures that the most up-to-date BMPs are in use, and that the BMPs used match the conditions of a given area.

Utah State University Extension offers eight agricultural BMPs [10]:

  1. Conservation Tillage is the practice of leaving harvested plant materials on the soil surface to reduce runoff and soil erosion.
  2. Crop Nutrient Management is managing all nutrient inputs helps ensure that nutrients are available to meet crop needs while reducing nutrient runoff.
  3. Pest Management is using various methods for managing pests while protecting soil, water, and air quality.
  4. Conservation Buffers are vegetation strips that provide additional barriers of protection and prevent potential pollutants from running off into surface waters.
  5. Irrigation Management involves increasing irrigation efficiency to reduce nonpoint source pollution of ground and surface waters.
  6. Grazing Management is managing livestock grazing to reduce water quality impacts (e.g., reduce erosion potential).
  7. Animal Feeding Operations Management is using runoff control, proper waste storage, and nutrient management to minimize the impacts of animal feeding operations.
  8. Erosion and Sediment Control is the practice of conserving and reducing the amount of sediment reaching waterbodies, which protects overall agricultural land and water quality.

Utah State University Extension also provides fact sheets and self administered surveys to aid in evaluating and planning for BMPs regarding nutrient management and land management. Some overlap exists between the agricultural BMPs and the additional information.

The NRCS maintains a series of implementation plans, in spreadsheet format, which are useful for evaluating BMP projects [11]. The spreadsheets include pricing estimates from 2011 (the latest available), which may be somewhat dated, but working through the spreadsheets still provides a sense of the costs of agricultural conservation measures.

In 2012, Utah Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell and Commissioner of Agriculture Leonard Blackham convened the Utah Agricultural Sustainability Task Force, which identified major issues confronting Utah agriculture and developed a list of proposed actions for state, county, local and federal governments to pursue. The issues and proposed actions are listed in the Task Force Report, Planning for Agriculture . Many of the proposed actions identify programs and funding opportunities that could be leveraged to address the issues identified by the Task Force on the local level.

Economic Considerations

Although production of agricultural commodities doesn’t occur at the same magnitude here as in some other states, Utah’s agriculture contributes to the local, regional and national food security, as well as the economy.

The production agriculture and agricultural processing sectors are important elements of Utah’s economy. Production agriculture includes farming, ranching, dairy, and related support industries. Agricultural processing includes all activities associated with converting agricultural commodities into products usable to consumers.

The Total and Average Market Value data can be used to compare one counties agricultural output with nearby counties.

Economic sectors include: jobs, income, and quality of life to both rural and urban areas within the state. In 2011 production agriculture (including the value of commodities produced and used on the operation where they were produced) accounted for 3.1% of the state economy. The effect of total employment associated with production agriculture was estimated at 21,254 jobs, and labor income was estimated at $356 million. Production agriculture, along with its associated processing sector, accounted for 14.1% of the total state economic output, employed approximately 78,000 individuals, and yielded $2.7 billion in labor income. The yearly contribution of agriculture to fiscal revenues (taxes) for state and local entities is estimated at $298 million. An additional $285 million is contributed to federal entities [12].

Agricultural production within Utah contributes both stability and diversity to the local, regional, and national economy. Utah’s Farm Income for all commodities in 2014 was almost over $2.4 billion [2]. This total can be divided into two main categories:

  • Income from Livestock and Animal Products: $1,843,108,000
  • Income from Crops: $532,111,000.

The primary crops produced in Utah include wheat, feed crops (barley, corn, hay, oats), safflower, onions, and fruits (apples, apricots, cherries, peaches). The highest cash receipts in 2014 were from hay production (nearly $258 million) and wheat ($42 million). The total value of hay production was $442 million and includes both cash receipts and hay retained by the producer as feed for their own livestock. The Total and Average Market Value data can be used to compare one counties agricultural output to other nearby counties.  The market value of products sold in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties in 2012 is presented in the table below.

2012 Census of Agriculture county profiles for counties of concern [5].
Market Value of Products Sold ($)$24,151,000$222,630,000$12,181,000
-Crop Sales ($)$3,137,000$98,246,000$3,167,000
-Livestock Sales ($)$21,014,000$124,384,000$9,014,000
Average per Farm ($)$39,080$90,426$27,068

According to the 2012 USDA Agricultural Statistics Services, Utah County is one of the most agriculturally diverse counties in Utah producing a wide variety of agricultural products including fruit, honey, potatoes and is also one of the state’s largest producers of alfalfa hay, wheat, and livestock [5] [7]. Utah County has the second highest market value of agricultural products sold in Utah (behind Beaver County) due to its strong crop and livestock production. Agriculture production and diversity in Summit and Wasatch Counties is lower than Utah County, though agriculture is still an important component of the economy. Net farm income is low in both counties, with the average Wasatch County farm operating at a loss. In both counties, the primary crop is alfalfa hay. However, the sheep inventory is among the highest in the state [5].

Impact Considerations

Perhaps the most compelling reason for agricultural land preservation is the spread of urban development. Often this development occurs on what limited prime agricultural land is available [13]. Because of the volatile nature and often slim profit margins of agricultural commodities, producers depend heavily on large, ideally contiguous parcels of low-cost land to achieve efficiency and maintain economic viability. The more geographically fragmented the parcels the farmer operates, the more fuel and time that farmer uses travelling between parcels. Additionally, requisite size and type of equipment may have to be reduced to be usable in a relatively smaller parcels, disproportionately inappropriate for the gross area of land operated, and the gross harvested output for all the parcels will likely be reduced due to inefficiency inherent at the perimeters of each parcel. To illustrate: a farmer with 1 parcel of 100 acres would be much more efficient than a farmer with 100 parcels of 1 acre each; and 100 farmers, each with 1-acre parcels, would be even less efficient.


The disparity in efficiency caused by fragmentation, combined with increased management demands (imposed by local governments, adjacent residential land users, and other commercial land users) can reduce the economic viability of any parcel to remain in agricultural production. This scenario illustrates a common cycle that often leads agricultural land holders to sell or develop their land to offset lost income. State and local efforts to protect farmland and limit fragmentation include Agricultural Protection Areas, conservation easements, and protective/agricultural zoning [14] [15] [16] [17] [18].

Relevant Agency Contact Information

With the ever-present need of land use planners and policy makers to be educated about agricultural issues, and the potential for conflict between various interests, there are several agencies with agricultural information and expertise that can help a county with agricultural planning.

Utah State University Extension provides information and expertise about irrigation. USU Extension has offices in Coalville, Park City, Provo, and Heber.

  1. USU Extension Services, Summit County. Address: 45 E. 100 North Coalville, UT 84017. Phone: 435-336-3217. Website:
  2. Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter (USU Extension), Wasatch County. Address: 1258 Center Drive, Park City, UT 84098. Phone: 435-649-1767. Website:
  3. USU Extension Services, Utah County. Address: 100 E. Center St. Rm. L600, Provo, UT 84606. Phone: 801-851-8460. Website:
  4. USU Extension Services, Wasatch County, Address: 55 S. 500 East, UT 84032. Phone: 435-657-3235. Website:

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food provides information and services related to:

  • Licensing regulation and product registration
  • Food safety and consumer protection
  • Markets & finance
  • Pesticides
  • Plants and pests
  • Animals
  • Weights and measures
  • Conservation and environmental issues

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts (UACD) has created county resource assessment documents for each county, with agriculture included, that can be used for resource planning [6] [7] [8] [9]. These documents can be a starting place in identifying existing and anticipated limitations that affect livestock production sustainability, and in formulating desired future conditions.

In addition to the UACD Resource Assessments, further resource inventories and management plans by individual conservation districts may be available. UACD member, the Wasatch Conservation District, coordinated the development of the Wallsburg Coordinated Resource Management Plan, which addresses more localized needs within one watershed in Wasatch County [19]. Other similar documents may be available for other districts or watersheds from individual conservation districts.

All MAG counties are located in Utah Conservation District 3, except for extreme eastern Summit County, which is included in District 6 with the Uinta Basin.

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
Agriculture market value
Value of agricultural products sold by county2007County level dataUS Department of Agriculture (USDA)
National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS)
Canals and Ditches from National Hydrology Dataset (NHD)
To get canals and ditches use field “FType” = 334 Connecter and336 Canal/DitchesData download 7/01/2015

Maps service update schedule is not specified
Canals and Ditches from Utah Division of Water Rights (UDWRi)
Canals and DitchesUnknownUnknownUtah Division of Water Rights
Net cash farm income
Total farm expenses subtracted from incomedata for 2007county level dataUS Department of Agriculture (USDA)
National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS)
PRISM Climate Group
Database for precipitation and temperature. Useful in determining which precipitation zone an area is located in.Variable4-km grid resolutionPrism Climate Group
Oregon State University
SSURGO Soils Data
Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) soil data with many useful attributes, eg. farmland class, drainage class, taxonomy, etc.Various1:12,000 to 1:63,360 USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
State and County Agriculture Profiles
County-level information about farms, income, market value, etc.Data for 2012County level dataUSDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
Water-Related Land Use
Layer depicts the types and extent of irrigated crops, as well as information concerning phreatophytes, wet/open water areas, dry land agriculture and residential/industrial areas. The primary business driver for this dataset is for constructing and analyzing the state’s annual water budget.
More Information
20151:24,000Utah Division of Water Resources


  1. State of Utah, Agriculture Sustainability Task Force. 2012. Planning for Agriculture.Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2015.
  2. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2015. Utah Agriculture Statistics and Annual Report. January 6.
  3. USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Services. 2002. County Summary Highlights.
  4. USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Services. 2007. County Summary Highlights.
  5. USDA: National Agricultural Statistics Services. 2012. County Summary Highlights.
  6. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2012. Summit County Resource Assessment.
  7. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2012.Utah County Resource Assessment.
  8. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2012.Wasatch County Resource Assessment.
  9. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2012. Wallsburg Coordinated Resource Management Plan.
  10. Utah State University Extension. 2011. Water Quality Best Management Practices. Website accessed: 12/29/15.
  11. USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2011. NRCS Utah Conservation Practice Cost Data.
  12. Ward, R.A., P. Jakus, and L. Coulibaly. 2013. The economic contribution of agriculture to the economy of Utah in 2011. Center for Society, Economy and the Environment Paper #2013-01.  Department of Applied Economics, Utah State University, Logan Utah.
  13. Leydsman McGinty, E. I. 2009. Urbanization in Utah. Pp. 153-156 in Rangeland Resources of Utah. Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service in Cooperation with the State of Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.
  14. Utah Code 17-41-403.
  15. Eastern Summit County Planning District. Undated. Proposed changes to Eastern Summit County development code and zoning map.
  16. Snyderville Planning District. 2015. Snyderville Basin General Plan.
  17. Utah County Planning Division. Undated. Utah County General Plan.
  18. Wasatch County Planning Commission. 2001. Wasatch County General Plan. Adopted November 26, 2001. Last amended February 4, 2010.
  19. Wasatch Conservation District. 2012. Wallsburg Coordinated Resource Management Plan.