For Senator Conrad, Millionaire Subsidy Recipients Trump the Environment
WASHINGTON, March 25 – Senate Budget committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced yesterday he would reject President Obama’s plan to cut billions in crop subsidy payments that flow mostly to large profitable farm operations and wealthy landowners.
Instead, according to a March 24 report by Charles Abbott of Reuters news service, Conrad said he would slash several other programs, among them, two conservation programs that are critical to winning the fight against global warming.
The conservation programs on Conrad’s chopping block help farmers reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and also engage in practices that take carbon out of the air and store it in the soil. Moreover, these programs help farmers protect their land and the environment from the more frequent floods, droughts, and severe weather blamed on global warming.
“Farmers must be on the front lines in the fight against global warming,” said Craig Cox, Environmental Working Group Midwest Vice-President. “There is a lot at stake in this fight, not only for U.S. agriculture but also for the rest of us who benefit from smart agriculture practices.”
Congress had already cut the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by 20 percent this year, and 3 million more acres have recently been removed from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
“Senator Conrad is proposing to take us in exactly the wrong direction by refusing to reform the abuses that funnel billions in taxpayer dollars to large profitable farm operations and wealthy landowners while cutting programs that fight global warming,” said Cox.
Conservation programs are chronically under-funded and deserve more federal support, not less.
- Congress has repeatedly appropriated far less for EQIP than they promised to provide in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills; $692 million less than promised in the 2002 bill and already $270 million less than promised in the 2008 bill.
- The latest data available from the U.S. Agriculture department (USDA) shows that North Dakota received nearly $5 billion in commodity crop subsidies between 1995 and 2006.
- Reform of farm subsidy programs enjoys widespread support across America. During the last farm bill debate there were over 450 editorials calling for farm subsidy reform. A poll commissioned by Oxfam America found that that more than six in 10 voters in those districts polled supported farm subsidy reform and a commodity payment system that would provide more benefits to small family farmers who need the help most.
- According to the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), average farm household income has exceeded average U.S .household income every year since 1996 – 27.5 percent higher in 2007 alone.
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Craig Cox, EWG Midwest Vice President, manages EWG's office in Ames, IA. Prior to EWG, Mr. Cox served as Executive Director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society and was Acting USDA Deputy Under-Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Special Assistant to the Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group’s farm subsidy database can be found at www.mulchblog.com