Tuesday, October 22, 2013

EWG: farm/food bill should include conservation requirements

The Pierre Capital Journal has been running a worthy series on habitat destruction in South Dakota:
Simple mathematics means the return from having grassland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, for example, is nowhere near as profitable as plowing and planting that land, especially if the producer carries crop insurance. [Allison Jarrell, Pierre Capital Journal]

Want to advance a farm/food bill? Get the Forest Service and the National Grasslands out of USDA.

A thousand years ago before watersheds were drained and grasslands became cropland muskrat were so plentiful in wetlands on the Northern Plains their harvest sustained some cultures.

Allison Jarrell tells readers of the Pierre Capital Journal:
Over the past seven years, 1.3 million acres of native grasslands have been lost in the Prairie Pothole Region, and more than 451,000 of those acres lie within South Dakota’s borders. If conversion rates continue at the same pace, nearly half of South Dakota’s remaining native prairie grassland will vanish over the next 35 years. But what’s left of South Dakota’s native grassland is at risk due to several factors driving conversion – high commodity prices, crop insurance programs and unintended consequences of federal farm policy.
Introduced grass species creeping onto public lands are reducing diversity in the Prairie Pothole Region and threatening duck habitat:
North America’s grassland biome, exemplified mainly by the vast Great Plains, is arguably the continent’s most endangered major ecosystem, with widespread grassland declines attributed mainly to conversion agriculture.--US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mary Ellen Kustin is Legislative/Policy Analyst for the Environmental Working Group. She writes:
With the cost to taxpayers of subsidizing crop insurance on the rise and millions of acres of fragile land going under the plow, it has never been more important to restore the conservation compliance requirement to federal crop insurance. Taxpayers are already paying more than $10 billion a year to help farmers insure their crops, and the price tag could easily get a lot higher. In return, they deserve a commitment from farmers to protect our nation’s soil and water resources.

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