Mitt Romney tells St. George audience ‘Utah has a lot to teach the nation’

ST. GEORGE — Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney was among the guest speakers at the Utah Farm Bureau’s “Fusion Ag Conference and Trade Show” in St. George Friday afternoon.

Hundreds of farmers from around the state attended the second day of the conference at the Dixie Center St. George, which provided networking opportunities and agricultural advocacy resources. Additional keynote speakers included Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and newly elected U.S. Rep. John Curtis.

An historic photo of the Tabernacle from the 1930s, St. George, Utah, circa 1930 | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

Romney began his speech by talking about his family’s roots in Southern Utah, including his great-great-grandfather Miles Romney who designed the St. George Tabernacle.

“He had been a carpenter of some renown in England before he came as an immigrant to the U.S.,” Romney said, “and Brigham Young sent him here to work on the temple, but he also designed the tabernacle.”

Known for his specialty in designing spiral staircases, Romney said his great, great grandfather clashed with Brigham Young on how far up the tabernacle’s spiral staircase would go in relation to the building’s interior balcony.

“If you want to see what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object, you can go over to the tabernacle in St. George, and you can see, sure enough, my great-great-grandfather’s spiral staircase goes all the way up to the second floor and then it goes down six feet to get to the balcony.”

It is widely speculated that Romney will run for U.S. Senate in Utah this year to replace the retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, but he has yet to confirm that speculation. Even so, in his keynote address, he outlined some ideas for his vision of improving the federal government while addressing some of the concerns of rural Utahns.

Romney expressed optimism for the future of the country, saying it has the potential to lead the world with a large young workforce to help drive the economy. He also said innovation and technology will be major drivers of growth.

Mitt Romney discusses issues facing the U.S. federal government during the FUSION Ag Conference and Trade Show at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“Exponential progress and innovation is what’s just beginning to hit the world – now not just in computers. You’re going to see health care change, automobiles change – in my view, in about 10 years, I’ll bet 90 percent of the cars we buy are electric.”

However, despite his optimism, he also said there are several problems facing the nation, issues that are going to need to be addressed by the federal government.

The federal deficit as it relates to entitlement programs, global warming, poverty, wage stagnation and increasing automation are among some of the issues that Congress has not but will have to address, he said.

“If we want to have a future for the kids, we’re going to have to finally tell them the truth about what’s going to happen to their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Romney said. “We’re going to have to change the deal or we won’t be able to honor the promises, and not a lot has been done to tackle the challenge.”

He said federal legislators should look to Utah for some solutions.

“I’m absolutely convinced that Utah is a model for the nation, that Utah has a lot to teach the nation at large.”

Romney noted several areas in which the state leads the U.S. as a whole, including:

  • Lower growth in government spending.
  • Lower debt growth.
  • Lower carbon dioxide production.
  • More exports.
  • Higher employment growth.
  • Higher income growth.

While these trends are encouraging, he said, there are still problems in the state, pointing out several rural counties that have had shrinking economies in the last decade, including San Juan County in Southern Utah.

The audience at the FUSION Ag Conference and Trade Show give keynote speaker Mitt Romney a standing ovation at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Several steps can be made to help such economies grow, he said, including locating new state government facilities in rural areas to stimulate their economies, increasing access to broadband internet services, improving hospital infrastructure and payment in lieu of taxes for counties in which most of the land is federally owned.

On the subject of federal public lands, Romney said he thinks the Antiquities Act needs to be reformed, suggesting that the president should have to get preapproval from Congress or the local legislature before designating national monuments.

“There has to be a lot more local involvement in decisions on how federal land is used, and the priority has to be for multiple uses and access into federal lands.”

His ideas on immigration were met with audience enthusiasm, receiving a round of applause after suggesting that states should be able to make their own decisions on how many work visas may be issued to immigrants, rather than quotas set by the federal government.

“People in the dairy industry pretty much need foreign workers to come in as guest workers probably for the entire year,” Romney said. “People in cattle or other parts of the agricultural industry may need people coming in from foreign places on a temporary basis.”

“To be a great nation, I think you have to be a good nation,” he said in conclusion. “Utah is a good state with good people. Utah has a lot to teach our nation.”

Other keynotes – Spencer Cox and John Curtis

U.S. Rep. John Curtis speaks during the FUSION Ag Conference and Trade Show at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

In his address, keynote speaker John Curtis, who was recently elected through a special election to represent Utah in the U.S. House, said he’s looking to tackle several areas of concern to farmers, including tax reform, immigration, improving rural infrastructure and regulatory reform.

“I want you to know there’s a strong movement underway to change the course of the direction of this ship that has had these excessive regulations that don’t make any sense.”

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, while not outright committing to it, confirmed again in his keynote address that he is thinking about running for Utah Governor when Gov. Gary Herbert retires.

Read more: Lieutenant governor tells St. George audience he may run for governor in 2020

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the FUSION Ag Conference and Trade Show at the Dixie Center St. George, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2018 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

Cox, who has an agricultural background, told the conference attendees that he is working to give greater representation to farmers and other rural professions.

“We need people who understand what it means to go out and get their hands dirty and make a living,” Cox said. “That’s my message today – we need your voices, we need your voices in Congress and we need your voices in the state capitol.”

The Fusion Conference continues Saturday with a number of breakout sessions discussing an array of agricultural topics. Tickets and registration can be obtained in person at the Dixie Center St. George, 1835 S. Convention Center Drive.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • comments January 26, 2018 at 8:59 pm


    • 12345 January 27, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      I’m sure nobody missed you

  • tenx January 26, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Romney had his day in the sun and showed his colors. He may be a Massachusetts moderate but certainly not a Utah conservative. Won’t get my vote.

  • Not_So_Much January 27, 2018 at 7:54 am

    We are fortunate to have Larry Myers from here in St George running for the US Senate. Larry is a man of integrity who is a true constitutional conservative. Do a little research, go to one of the many local meetings Larry Myers has and ask any question you’d like. We can do so much better than Mitt Romney.

    • Chris January 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      you can have all the man crush you want on Larry Myers, but Mitt is an absolute lock to win this nomination.

  • 42214 January 27, 2018 at 9:53 am

    I hope Romney doesn’t think Utahans can teach the country how to drive.

    • 12345 January 27, 2018 at 6:57 pm

      Yeah driving and paying Utah wages

  • Eric January 28, 2018 at 12:12 am

    “I’m absolutely convinced that Utah is a model for the nation, that Utah has a lot to teach the nation at large.”

    Well, the LINE IS COMPLETE BS.

  • mshaw January 28, 2018 at 7:11 am

    Romney cannot teach us anything he lies to us and is a bigot and will not work with our president. Larry Myers is a better choice. No mitt the twitt!!!

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