The battered Little Big Man of this year’s farm bill wars could be the soil itself. Or to hear environmentalists tell it: The landmark 1985 treaty to curb erosion is, well, eroding.
That’s the thrust of a report out Monday from the Environmental Working Group that warns early progress reducing soil erosion has stalled and in some states like Iowa, losses have even increased — all in a time of record farm income.
“The gold rush in farm country is putting unprecedented pressure on our soil and water,” is the report’s opening salvo. “Now more than ever, the nation needs a reinvigorated and strengthened conservation compact.”
With a Senate hearing scheduled Tuesday on the same conservation issues, the 25-page report is EWG’s attempt to put down its mark early. And the Washington-based nonprofit wants Congress to reverse a 1996 law and again require farmers to comply with soil conservation rules or lose the premium subsidies so important to insuring their crop revenues.
“That’s the key lever,” Max Schnepf, the report’s author, told POLITICO. “That’s the key to compliance.”
Many in the farm establishment are sure to resist. Just last month, American Farm Bureau delegates voted against linking crop insurance to conservation compliance. And as a rule, producers see crop insurance as a business arrangement with real out-of-pocket costs to them — however much subsidized by taxpayers.
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