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Subsidies to protect the environment

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Today's Baraboo (Wisconsin) News Republic gives plain-English descriptions of federal farm subsidies. The piece makes a pretty good case for conservation payments:

The USDA divides subsidies into three categories: Conservation, disaster and commodity. [Sauk County Farm Service Agency Executive Director, Curt] Norgard said conservation subsidies are annual rental payments to farmers who do not plant "row crops" such as corn or soybeans to help protect fields from erosion and attract wildlife. Those deals generally last for 10 years.

"They are required to put in covers, seasonal grasses, tree planting and filter strips," Norgard said.

With this type, farmers get more of a say in the process, said Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension Agricultural Agent Paul Dietmann.

"A person can bid their land into the program, say, 'I'd accept $75 an acre for the first 10 years of the contract to keep this land out of production,'" Dietmann said. "That's land that is typically highly erodable or close to a stream where there is an environmental concern connected with the land."

Dietmann said these conservation subsidies are making a positive difference around Sauk County.

"It really reduces soil erosion quite a bit because you're not harvesting a crop off and exposing the soil," he said. "You establish a cover and leave it on over a long period of time. It really helps build organic matter in the soil."

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