Utah Farm Bureau Federation president Kenneth R. Ashby says Utah's farm economy is on the upswing after nearly a decade of crisis and economic woes.

"Hard times have weeded out many farmers and ranchers who borrowed too much, over extended themselves or failed to economize and streamline their operations," Ashby said. "Whoever is left farming today has a good chance of being in business a decade from now."Agriculture will have a major role in any upturn in Utah's economy, he said, and will be an important factor in building jobs and increasing wages. "Agriculture is this state's single largest industry, worth nearly $7 billion in assets, and produces annually more than $2 billion in economic activity."

It's about time, he said, that agriculture got some credit for being vital to Utah's economy and to its future growth and prosperity.

The Delta farmer, who is hosting farmers from all over the state during the Farm Bureau's annual convention Wednesday through Friday at the Marriott Hotel, said it is still difficult to predict how the farm picture will look in the long run.

"There are a host of problems still facing farmers and ranchers. We are being challenged at every turn, it seems, by environmentalists, animal rights groups and other special interest groups.

"A lot of people want to put a lot of restrictions on farmers - restrictions that could mean higher food prices and a continual decrease in the number of American farmers who can stay in business profitably."

He said the drought in the Midwest and Southwest this summer helped Utahns who had hay and grain to sell and boosted these commodity prices to record heights.

One of the factors that has helped Utah farmers stay in business is the fact that many have jobs away from the farm that supplement their incomes and help them over the rough economic times.

In addition, Utah farms continue to be diversified and this, he said, helps when there is a glut of one crop or another and commodity prices tumble.