Environmentalist Group Seeks to Influence 2012 Farm BillMon, 27 Feb 2012 16:01:49 CST
An environmentalist group opposing farm legislation reform has issued a new report and web advertising campaign ahead of Tuesday’s Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing on conservation.
The Environmental Working Group’s report, Conservation Compliance: A Retrospective...and Look Ahead, supports their view that farmers and taxpayers are subject to a nebulous “compact” that was struck in the 1985 farm bill under which “growers agreed to keep soil from washing away and chemicals out of waterways in return for generous taxpayer support.”
The report relies on seven polls taken over 30 years purportedly showing “that a solid majority of farmers believe that bargain is a fair one.”
The report’s author, conservationist Max Schnepf, says “The conservation compact was a godsend for agricultural and conservation groups and farmers.” He also says, “In the 10 years following the 1985 farm bill, farmers did more to curb soil erosion than at any time since the infamous Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.”
EWG’s 2011 report, Losing Ground, concluded “high prices, intense competition for farmland leases and ethanol mandates have put unprecedented pressure on land and water. As a result, the historic gains in soil conservation the compact achieved are being lost.”
The group believes that under the new farm bill being considered by the Senate, conservation “is once again being pushed to the back seat - the very situation that led to the compact in the first place,” said EWG Senior Vice President Craig Cox. “We need to reinvigorate the compact just to keep things from getting worse, let alone make long-overdue progress on pollution problems that have gone unchecked for decades.”
In a news release announcing their report, EWG says “agribusiness lobbyists are pushing their allies in Congress to gut the conservation compact entirely, with dire consequences for the environment and public health. “
EWG says it is trying to raise awareness of the “disastrous situation” by releasing their report and web based ads ahead of the Senate Ag Committee’s hearing on Strengthening Conservation Through the 2012 Farm Bill.
EWG says funding for conservation programs has been cut every year since 2002 and conservation requirements were ended in 1996.
“Congress must not break the 25-year old conservation compact between farmers and taxpayers under the guise of farm policy reform,” Cox said. “Farmers need a safety net, but so do fertile soil and clean water.”
EWG wants Congress to: recouple risk management programs to conservation requirements, update conservation plans to reflect modern technology and weather patterns, require landowners to control erosion on all annually tilled crop land, and dedicate funds for conservation planning and enforcement.
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