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Losing Ground

Friday, May 4, 2012

From the heart of Corn Country, the Des Moines Register editorial board weighed in today on the badly flawed Senate farm bill.  An excerpt:

The Senate bill would also eliminate the link between crop subsidies and compliance with conservation programs that protect against soil erosion and field runoff that fouls rivers and lakes and contributes to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Senate’s bill would replace direct cash subsidies with federally subsidized crop insurance. Farmers love this insurance. The federal government picks up 60 percent of the cost of premiums, and the insurance protects farmers not only from catastrophic losses due to weather but due to an unexpected drop in prices. What business would not love to have a deal like that?

Farmers who sign up for crop insurance, however, are not required to participate in soil and water conservation programs. In other words, taxpayers protect farmers from risk of participating in the market economy while people who live downstream must accept the consequences of those irresponsible farmers who push their land to the limit.

Farm organizations and their supporters insist that great strides have been made in protecting soil and water quality. But while many farmers are good stewards of the land, the evidence in the aggregate is that we are, to coin a phrase, losing ground. The federal government plays a major role in agriculture, and in exchange it is not too much to ask that all farmers who benefit should be good stewards of the land.

The damage production agriculture and government farm policies do to the environment is worsening.  Outdoor television host and writer Greg Howey catalogs in his column this week the unfathomable amount of conservation land converting to industrial cultivation.

The total acres in the Northern Plains states that will be coming out of CRP is more than 3 million acres, or 4,687.5 square miles which is about the size of Connecticut.

We’re talking “big” numbers here as nationwide there will be 10,156 square miles of acres of CRP coming out, more acres than in the states of Vermont (9,615 square miles), New Hampshire (9,283 square miles), Massachusetts (8,262 square miles), New Jersey (7,790 square miles) Hawaii (6,459 square miles), Connecticut (5,006 square miles), Delaware (2,026 square miles and Rhode Island (1,213 square miles).


Table Scraps

-     Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) says shopping at farmers markets can boost Michigan economy.

-     Clare Leschin-Hoar writes about 5 Food Risks Bigger Than Mad Cow

-     A story in the Billings Gazette paints a stark picture of farmers forgoing conservation for high crop prices.

Tweet of the day:

? @sampmitchell I crunched the numbers--it doesn't look good for a 2013 Farm Bill. (And by "I," I mean CBO economists) @FlavorMagazine

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