The farm bill will be signed by President Barack Obama soon and that is good news for the Top of Utah, particularly Box Elder County. In all, $3.7 million will be paid to the Top of Utah, with $2.89 million going to Box Elder County, which badly needs the money.
The money that Box Elder, Cache, Weber, Davis counties receive is called the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT. It provides money to counties -- mostly in the West -- that have land controlled by the federal government. The counties don't get any tax revenue from the lands, but the feds do provide PILT money every year. This year there's about $410 million of PILT cash to hand out; in all, Utah gets about $35 million.
Here's a secret for our readers: PILT saved the farm bill. Had PILT money not been involved in the farm bill dealing, our dysfunctional Congress likely would still be squabbling over the many details of the soon-to-be-signed bill.
However, a while back, congressional negotiators ignored PILT when they hatched the omnibus budget bill. That was a strange omission. Funding PILT every year was considered automatic. It has bipartisan support. Once PILT was ignored in the budget bill, western U.S. interests lobbied to make sure the land payments were resurrected. The Davis County Commission, for example, sent copies of a letter supporting PILT to our state's U.S. congressional delegation.
As mentioned, it didn't take long for PILT to find a new home in the farm bill. Its inclusion guaranteed that the farm bill -- stuffed with pork, such as subsidies for the sugar industry, and an unpopular cut to food stamps -- would pass Congress and become law.
Eventually, four of Utah's congressional members supported it, including Rep. Rob Bishop, of Utah's First Congressional District. Utah's junior senator, Mike Lee, opposed the measure, along with Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson. We agree with Bishop and his three Utah colleagues who supported the bill.
It's an old cliche, but Congress is a sausage factory, and finding the right recipe can be messy. In this case, the dominant ingredient was PILT.