Policy Plate: Riot of Soil Erosion Brings Shame
John Walter, executive editor of Successful Farming Magazine & Agriculture.com, took a Memorial Day weekend trip through western Iowa. Walter writes today at Agriculture.com about the environmental catastrophe he witnessed on his drive. His story, “Riot of soil erosion brings shame,” recounts:
Creeks looked like open sewers. One normally clean pond I visited was as dirty as Big Muddy itself.
I get the fact that it rained, and it rained hard. But, this dramatic damage to the land pulls back the curtain of what's been going on in the hills for a decade or more now. More and more, farmers are pushing to grow corn where it's not possible in any kind of sustainable way. In the process, they're destroying the soils, polluting the waters, and scarring the landscape.
I wanted to blame the government for not enforcing conservation compliance and sodbuster regulations. I wanted to blame certain farmers for abandoning their moral responsibility to care for the land for future generations. I wanted to blame local citizens for not applying peer pressure on their bad apple neighbors.
But mostly, it felt shameful yesterday to be associated with agriculture, and I was ashamed of myself as much as anything.
Last year, EWG released a ground-breaking report, Losing Ground, that showed that bad federal policy and intensifying storms are washing away the Midwest’s rich dark soil at a rate many times greater than federal estimates. But since soil erosion and field run-off are unregulated, farm bill conservation programs and stewardship agreements like conservation compliance are our only lines of defense against losing valuable natural resources. Yet conservation takes a massive cut in the Senate farm bill, and the industrial agriculture lobby has fought all attempts to attach conservation compliance to new farm subsidy insurance schemes.
- The Chicago Tribune editorial board took aim at government-subsidized crop insurance: “If the facts about the billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted on this boondoggle were widely known, no one would stand for it.”
- The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carolyn Lochhead writes of the current farm bill’s impact on California: “The nation's largest farm producer and a strong voice in environmental and health policy, is destined to cede billions of dollars to entrenched commodity interests in the Midwest and South.”
- According to Bloomberg News, agrichemical giant Syngenta will pay a $105 million settlement to involving U.S. water utilities over the herbicide atrazine.
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