Costs and Regulations Keep New Farms From Emerging in America

by Robert John Stevens, April 25, 2017

Today I attended the 9:00 a.m. Utah County Commissioner Meeting and when public comments were requested, I walked to the guest speaker’s pulpit and read to the three commissioners1, Google’s definitions of:

liberty — “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views”

oppression — “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.”

I highlighted the words oppression and prolonged in relation to the fourteen years I’ve worked on developing my 103 acres in Utah County. I told them that before I finish I will have sold more than half of my land just to pay the utilities and government fees required to live on my remaining farmland at a cost of more than $2 million.

I reported that Commissioner Lee and I sponsored a team of BYU students this winter semester whose mission was to determine how unused county lands can be used for agriculture.

After interviewing dozens of farmers, orchard growers and residents, the students reported that the remaining farmers are elderly and their children don’t want to continue farming.

Unless an American grew up on a farm, it is highly unlikely he or she will want to become a farmer.

Today, costs and regulations have made it impossible for most citizens to buy land, build a home and start a farm.

Contrast that to the Utah pioneers who after paying $1.50 for recording and surveying fees, moved onto their property and went to work.

Pioneer families struggled. Hard work was required to get ahead. Employers today would love to hire children that grew up on farms but few can be found.

One BYU Professor friend tells me that he can’t wait to retire because students today do not know how to work.

Because excessive governmental regulations crushed competition, almost no new farms have emerged in Utah County for decades.

The students discovered that most food grown locally is exported outside of Utah County and most of the food we eat is imported. Because regulations protected farmers and halted new farms from forming, big corporations filled the growing public’s need for food. Walmart, Costco and supermarket chains have access to worldwide markets and buy our foods from farmers and distributors thousands of miles away.

Fruit is tracked to the very tree where it was grown.

Utah County won’t remove any regulations unless mandated by the state of Utah—Employees say to change or remove a single regulation would require them to conduct a study to see how that would affect all their other regulations.

A citizen may request a regulation wording change for $300 and will have the opportunity to discuss the issue publicly at a commissioner meeting. Most likely the wording change will be denied. To make matters worse, county employees will not re-word it for acceptance.

I told the commissioners that if I ever ran against them, I’d print their 292 pages of land-use ordinances, and staple them together as one long scroll so voters can see its length. Commissioner Graves laughed and said there are many more regulations than that.

He’s right of course. Add the Utah County Health Department regulations, the state regulations, and more.

Commissioner Graves said all those regulations exists because there were lawsuits.

County regulations aren’t footnoted. Many are probably out of date. Fear and uncertainty also prevent changes.

It has become obvious to me that politicians highly favor large institutions and very wealthy people. If an American wants to do good for the human race, he probably first needs to educate himself, develop a product or service and become wealthy.

As my son Andrew so wisely states, “We are a big-business society. The little guy is only cool when he stops becoming the little guy.”

Footnotes

1 Commissioners Bill Lee, Nathan Ivie, and Greg Gregs