Gov. Norm Bangerter and Congressman Jim Hansen, R-Utah, have told Utah farmers they will fight moves to convert 5 million acres of state land into wilderness.
Speaking at the closing sessions Friday of the Utah Farm Bureau's three-day annual convention in the Marriott Hotel, Bangerter said he is looking forward during the next four years to working closely with the state's farmers."I want to make sure any wilderness legislation will include a multiple use concept. We can't afford to lock up 5 million acres of Utah land into wilderness."
He said he will work to develop new water resources during his coming term. He told farmers and their partners, "We're the best farmers in the world. The key to the future now is to be the best marketers in the world and be able to compete unshackled by government restrictions."
Hansen said definitions in the Park Protection Bill are hazy and need to be carefully defined so vast expanses of land adjacent to the parks are not locked up. He said putting 5 million acres of Utah land into wilderness, as has been proposed, "would be like closing southern Utah."
Harry S. Bell, vice president of the American Farm Bureau, told Utah farmers Friday the recent drought in America will have a long term impact on farm programs, including Set Aside, Conservation Reserve and farmer-owned grain reserve programs as well as public opinion throughout the nation.
Environmental issues will have a dramatic impact on future farm legislation, too, he warned. "I'm worried. An environmentalist farm program bill was introduced just before Congress adjourned for the election.
"Under the proposals of the bill, farm policy should provide technical and financial assistance to producers seeking to adopt low-input, sustainable farming practices."
To encourage this, Bell said, the bill would give higher target prices, higher crop insurance subsidies and low interest rates and larger acreage bases to farmers who switch to federally approved low-input practices.
These might mean smaller farms, reduced energy inputs, reduced amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides and, and greatly reduced crop production.
Bell said he isn't sure what terms like sustainable or low-input mean.
"We don't want to return to the `small is better good old days,"' he said, "or to small thinking, small incomes and small opportunities" for the American farmer.
Utah Farm Bureau president Kenneth R. Ashby, Delta, said his organization has agreed to fight any new tax increases and, he said, "I think the Utah Legislature now knows how the people of Utah feel about taxes and tax increases and will work toward tax reform."