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Hypocrisy on Conservation

Hypocrisy on Conservation

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chris Clayton, policy editor at Progressive Farmer/DTN, examines the curious position being taken by industrial agriculture’s lobbyists. They claim that farmers are doing all they can to protect the environment, but at the same time the lobbyists resist even modest attempts to require minimal conservation efforts in exchange for new farm subsidies. An excerpt:

I received another news release from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance's public relations firm on Friday championing efforts in agriculture regarding sustainability, managing water and fertilizer and “green” practices.

This morning, I read an article on another website, AgriPulse, that 31 agricultural groups and crop-insurance companies also sent a letter Friday to Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to “urge you to reject the linkage” of conservation compliance to eligibility for crop insurance.

A big reason the ag lobby is trying to have it both ways is that in America, federal agriculture policies are putting at risk the drinking water used by millions of people. Perverse incentives such as farm subsidies and ethanol mandates have ushered in an era of fencerow-to-fencerow planting of chemical-intensive commodity crops even as funding to protect water sources has been repeatedly slashed.

The result is that water running off poorly managed fields that have been treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus. And since most farm operations are exempt from the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and states have little authority to compel farmers to control water contamination, the burden of cleaning up agricultural pollution in drinking water falls mostly on municipal treatment systems – and the taxpayers who pay for them. Taxpayers end up paying twice, once for the subsidies that encourage all-out production and again for the cleanup. Meanwhile, farm businesses reap year after year of high income and federal subsidies whether or not they are protecting our drinking water.

It behooves the ag lobby to put up a smokescreen on conservation and the environment, lest taxpayers realize the toll that agricultural pollution is putting on their pocketbooks and their drinking water.

Table Scraps

-          The Politico’s David Rogers reports on a possible revolt over the Senate farm bill by growers of rice and other Southern crops who wouldn’t get lucrative farm subsidies.

-          Grist asks “Would you like a bad farm bill – or a terrible one?

-          Bread for the World calculates that offsetting the proposed nutrition cuts in the Senate farm bill would require every church in the country to come up with $50,000 a year to feed the hungry.

Tweet of the day:

? @ALLGOV Crop Insurance Subsidizes Insurance Companies as Much as Farmers

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