Policy Plate: Conservation compact is key for clean drinking water
Farmers can produce far more than the world’s food and fiber — they can also contribute to the enormous task of keeping our drinking water clean and our streams healthy.
Today, former Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer and a coalition of state officials, sustainable agriculture and conservation advocates, met to discuss the ways Congress can help farmers use their skills to protect our water. This year, the federal Clean Water Act marks its 40th anniversary. But this law exempts pollution from farm fields. The farm bill is the most important federal legislation to promote healthy water in farm country.
The Environmental Working Group believes that farm bill, which renews the nation’s food and farm policy, provides American leaders with two critical opportunities to improve the nation’s drinking water supplies. It must:
- Honor the conservation compact between farmers and taxpayers. This provision is a safety net for farmers who carry out basic steps to reduce pollution.
- Strengthen and adequately fund conservation programs that share the cost of additional land management practices that keep water clean.
Two out of every three farmers who want to ensure our drinking water is free of pollutants are turned away for federal assistance. Congress must do a better job of husbanding the nation’s resources to confront the environmental challenges that threaten farms, water resources and public health.
Agriculture.com’s Dan Looker recently reported that“the Corn Growers…back continued conservation compliance for farm program payments, but they and ASA (American Soybean Association) members…oppose linking conservation compliance to crop insurance.”
An op-ed in the Oregonian, calling for a robust conservation title in the 2012 farm bill, points out that “farm bill conservation programs send a healthy economic ripple through hard-strapped rural communities.”
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