Environmental Groups Push for Runoff Bill

With Congress feverishly debating a new farm bill before the current one expires, the Environmental Working Group, an American environmental organization dedicated to research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, and use of public land, is pressuring politicians to pay attention to environmental regulations, particularly those protecting drinking water.

With the current farm bill set to expire at the end of September, Congress is hoping to rush through new agricultural legislation that will protect farmers from any adverse weather or economic conditions as well as offer them a roadmap of federal policy, allowing individual farms to better tailor their planting and production to larger national trends. Unlike previous farm bills, however, the 2012 bill will likely contain several sharp budget cuts, including the elimination of direct payment farm subsidies.

This elimination is worrying the Environmental Working Group. Currently, direct payments are linked to conservation compliance. The elimination of direct payments will end these conservation compliance policies, as crop insurance and revenue protection programs are not linked to any environmental regulation. While the EWG is lobbying Congress to require conservation compliance to qualify for federal crop insurance programs, they report that few politicians are willing to take that stand.

Hoping to raise public awareness, the EWG has released a study of drinking water in Iowa that suggests that conservation regulations have helped reduce environmental degradation. According to the report, 12 percent of domestic wells tested in Iowa contained unsafe levels of nitrates and pesticides, a significant decline from a similar report published twenty years ago. In addition, the report suggested that soil erosion had declined 33 percent since the 1980s.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer