Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, October 13, 2011

A new USDA study shows that farmers using combinations of erosion-control and nutrient-management practices on cultivated cropland are reducing losses of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous from farm fields and decreasing the movement of these materials to the Great Lakes and their associated waterways.

New USDA Report

Capitol Hill is a scrum of lobbyists fighting over a shrinking budget these days, and farm subsidies are under attack as never before. Some of those subsidies appear likely to die.
But let's talk about one kind of farm subsidy, one that environmentalists are fighting to preserve. Believe it or not, so are the people who run the water systems in American cities. This week, some of these groups wrote a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to keep funding these programs.

We're taking about "conservation" subsidies. Some people call them "green payments," and they add up to about $5 billion each year.

Under these programs, the government pays farmers to do things that are good for the environment, but aren't profitable. The biggest single source of green payments, the Conservation Reserve Program (which costs just under $2 billion each year), pays farmers to take cropland out of production for ten years or more and instead plant native grasses (or sometimes trees) on that land. At its peak a few years ago, 36 million acres were part of the CRP. That's an area the size of the state of New York. It's been declining in recent years. Now it's more like the size of Indiana.

Other programs pay farmers to turn cropland back into wetlands (good for wildlife and water quality), or to introduce farming practices that reduce soil erosion and fertilizer runoff or provide more habitat for wildlife.

Farm Subsidies Birds And Fish Would Choose