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Proposal Could Lead to Growing Crops on Preserved Land

Saturday, September 13, 2008 by: Jo Hartley
Tags: crops, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) There are approximately 34 million acres of land across the U.S. that the government has paid farmers to stop growing row crops including corn and soybeans on. This land is currently designated as conserved land that is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The purpose for CRP has been to keep production down and increase commodity prices. This $1.8 billion per year program has become a significant positive effect for conservation because much of the land has been either planted with perennial grasses and trees or has been restored to wetland areas.

The conservation program was started in 1985. It pays farmers "rent" to leave their croplands fallow. Some of the land is used to buffer streams and rivers. A typical contract has a duration of 10 to 15 years. Farmers wishing to opt out must pay a penalty and also refund all the rent money earned back to the government.

Current flooding in the Midwest, high feed prices, and the ethanol situation have all contributed to a very different equation, however. The U.S. government is under significant pressure from farmers and livestock producers to begin to allow the plowing and sowing of this conserved land. Livestock producers are in an ever-increasing tight situation where they are losing money feeding their animals.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer is being pressured to change the conservation program to release some land into farming production; he is expected to announce a decision soon. Obviously, any decision will be controversial. The bottom line is that it will be necessary to choose between either agriculturalists or environmentalists.

Environmentalists are concerned about the large taxpayer investment in this conservation effort and the fact that any expanded cultivation may actually make future flooding worse. Any short term improvements may be outweighed by long term environmental damage.

In September, 1.2 million acres will have expired contracts. In the next four years, 3.9 million acres expire in 2009, 4.5 million in 2010, 4.4 million in 2011 and 5.6 million in 2012.

Schafer recently issued an order that is allowing livestock to graze on conserved acreage in the Midwest that has been recently flooded. Agriculturists are not satisfied with this directive, however, saying this "emergency grazing" will not be significant enough to have any impact on food prices.

Recently, 15 environmental organizations sent a letter to Schafer stating that an opt-out option would devastate the nation's soil, water, and wildlife habitats, and also significantly increase global warming. They contend that if farmers convert grassland back to crops that a spiral of devastation will be set in motion for wildlife populations.

One possible solution would be to allow farmers out of their CRP contracts without having to pay penalties but at the same time, continue to protect the most environmentally sensitive lands.

About the author

Jo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
http://loftymatters.com - Current Events
http://winemaiden.com - Simply Abundant Living

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