Tuesday, May 1, 2012 — Blog by Farm Bureau Contributors
Field Notes from Larry Wooten
A new Environmental Working Group report ignores scientific fact and lays the blame for the nation’s water quality issues at the feet of farmers in an effort to hijack farm bill negotiations.
The report focused on Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin and states, “This year’s debate over renewing the federal farm bill is a referendum on America’s commitment to protecting our drinking water supplies at the source.”
The EWG urges Congress to take steps it asserts will ensure the new farm bill protects drinking water. These include reforming farm subsidies by ending direct payments and reducing subsidies for farm insurance programs; renewing the “conservation compliance” provisions of the 1985 farm bill (re-linking wetland and soil protection requirements to crop insurance programs); and strengthening conservation incentive programs.
By encouraging Congress to reform farm programs by eliminating direct payments and entitlements, it appears EWG is simply trying to take credit for many factors that have already been determined to be the starting point of this farm bill debate and for ideas that have already been surfaced.
Crop insurance will be a key tool in making the risk management and safety net aspects of the next farm bill work for farmers in a time of extreme budget cuts. Insisting on an ever-increasing number of conditions in order to purchase crop insurance makes no sense for our nation, especially given the fact that nearly all farmers have viable conservation plans in place.
Farm Bureau policy is clear. In order to make crop insurance workable across numerous crops and regions, there is no economically viable way that farmers can pick up that tab on their own. Society expects farmers to take risks to keep our nation well supplied with food and fiber. Helping to shoulder some of that risk is a warranted public investment.
Farm Bureau policy opposes tying crop insurance to conservation compliance. But we continue to be strong supporters of conservation programs, particularly those focused on assisting farmers in improving their environmental stewardship in a cooperative, collaborative manner. This not only rewards the bottom line, it provides numerous public benefits such as improved water quality, wildlife habitat and air quality.
Results of several major studies and initiatives prove that America’s farm families are more efficient and environmentally sustainable than ever before. In short, they are growing more food, fiber and renewable fuel stocks with fewer resources and their environmental footprint is on a steady decline.
As farmers continue to travel down a path of continued improvement and greater resource efficiency, we stand confident that we will continue to make progress toward meeting the world’s increasing demand for food and fiber while achieving lesser environmental impact per unit of output produced.
Contributed by Larry Wooten, NCFB President