The most troubling news this week was a report from Stephanie Paige Obgurn of High Country News, which took a comprehensive look at the alarming conversion of native prairie grassland to intensive row cropping (subscription required).
Two excerpts from the report:
Today, though, ranchers and farmers — particularly in the Dakotas — are tearing up their native grassland and planting it row to row. “Some of the conversions maybe started happening as early as 20 years ago, but it’s really accelerated the last five years,” says Lyle Perlman, a South Dakota farmer.
The Nature Conservancy gauges the annual rate of grassland destruction in this region at 1.1 percent — higher than the rate of deforestation in the Amazon.
Also this week, EWG President Ken Cook told the Marin Independent Journal that lawmakers can pass a farm bill without making cuts to nutrition assistance and conservation programs. Cook also said, “he would like to see more farm bill resources driven to promoting local farmers' markets and building small processing facilities for farmers.”
Some good news: The maker of the highly toxic agricultural pesticide methyl iodide is pulling it off the market. The Pesticide Action Network of North America, which has worked for years to ban methyl iodide, alerted EWG and other groups joined in the effort to protect the public, including farm workers, from being exposed to the substance.
EWG Table Scraps:
The Watertown Daily Times reports that crop insurance is under attack by organizations like EWG because insurance programs have benefitted large farm businesses and protect farmers' income even when they do not suffer losses from bad weather.
Grist has a great explainer laying out why big subsidies for Big Ag will go nowhere if some farm lobbyists have their way. The piece uses two EWG maps to show that the crop insurance program backed by Big Ag reps would channel payments to the same large producers in the same counties that have taken the lion’s share of farm subsidies since 1995.
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