Powerful ag interests are pushing Congress to drastically limit the number of acres that can be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
From this story on argusleader.com:
_Soaring crop prices are coaxing landowners across the Midwest and Great Plains to put Conservation Reserve Program acreage back under the plow, and Congress is considering reducing the program even further. A farm bill that leaders of the congressional agriculture committees drafted this fall would cap the $2 billion-a-year Conservation Reserve Program at 25 million acres nationwide, down from the current limit of 32 million acres. When the program was created in 1985, the government was allowed to enroll as many as 45 million acres.
Grain processors and livestock farms have been pushing lawmakers to roll back the program to increase production of corn and other crops. The National Grain and Feed Association, which represents processors, elevators, livestock producers and other grain users, argues that millions of acres of land in CRP could be broken and seeded to corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops without environmental damage. CRP cuts “didn’t go as far as we wished they had, but it was certainly moving in the right direction,” said Randy Gordon, grain users association vice president.
Well, at least now the nation’s upland and waterfowl hunters know who not to send Christmas cards to. The vital importance of CRP to this nation’s hunters has been covered before here and here and here and here so I won’t repeat, but there are two points to make about this particular story:
One, the entire purpose of the Conservation Reserve Program was to protect land that was deemed either marginally productive or environmentally sensitive. To claim that taking millions of those sensitive and/or agriculturally marginal lands out of the program and putting them back into production with absolutely no environmental impact at all is–to put it mildly–either a naive fairy tale or a bald-faced lie. I’ll leave it to you to decide which.
Two, keep in mind that CRP enrollment is completely voluntary. If you’re a farmer or rancher and you don’t want any of your acres enrolled in CRP, there’s certainly no government agency telling you that you must. So why would the National Grain and Feed Association be actively lobbying Congress to put federal limits on an individual producer’s choice to run their operation in any way they see fit? If more than 25 million acres worth of landowners care enough about their land, care enough about upland bird and waterfowl populations to want to enroll it in CRP, what business is that of the National Grain and Feed Association?