Farming and your freedom: It’s an ill wind that blows through conservation efforts

by Peter Graham, Columnist

  We talked about the onerous idea of another Dust Bowl last week. Could it happen? No one is sure it won’t. Now, Congress seems to be in a mood to cut soil and water conservation funding by the federal government. How, timely, how scary!
Dan Looker, writing in Agriculture Online, said that while everyone is aware that Congress passes a farm bill every five years or so, and has recently done so, they’re not aware that committees in the House and Senate then begin to quietly tinker with funding for various aspects of the bill.
He noted that there was lots of publicity when the committees began sparring with the Obama Administration over school nutrition programs and food stamps, but little attention was paid to an area that could adversely affect American agriculture: Soil and water conservation.
The House Appropriations Committee announced last week a series of cuts for conservation programs. In fact, the cuts removed more than a million acres from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and slashed funding for conservation and energy renewal programs.
In the Senate, Looker noted, the cuts were less Draconian but still significant. There, they trimmed EQIP but left CSP intact, unlike the House.
And, it was a lop-sided vote against conservation in the House. I’m no longer sure your congressman or senator can look you in the eye and say he or she supports good soil and water stewardship by the United States Government. The Joads must be spinning in their graves!
Traci Bruckner, writing for the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, NE, decried the cuts and urged Congress to reconsider. She said: “At a time when more farmers and ranchers need tools and resources to help them protect our land and water, we should be investing more in conservation, not less. Slashing investments in conservation is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. When we invest in conservation up front, by supporting farmers and ranchers for how they work the land, it is far more effective and it costs much less than cleaning up polluted lakes, streams and river, later.”
And, conservation, while sometimes invisible, is a very big deal in the country. The Conservation Stewardship Program, for instance, supports conservation efforts on over 60 million acres, and invests more than $8 billion to protect our land and water in America. That’s serious money doing serious work!
Given that modern agriculture and the vast food processing industry are all aware of the benefits of conservation and are working to create sustainable ways to raise the world’s food, it seems unbelievable that handfuls of elected officials from safe districts can literally gut our 70-year effort to conserve our great land and water resources. Why do we stand for it?
I’ll see ya!