Farm Bill Debate Sparks Environmental Debate

With Congress currently debating the 2012 Farm Bill and with farmers still reeling from the effects of this summer’s devastating drought, scientists and environmentalists are pushing for an increase in ecological conservationism in the farm bill, hoping that the disastrous weather can push many farmers to see the need for radically different methods of production.

This summer saw the worst drought in more than 50 years. Farmers across the country were hit with record high temperatures (some communities reported the highest temperatures ever recorded) and record low precipitation. Because of the extreme weather, crops withered and production plummeted (particularly corn production, which was hammered across the Midwest).

The unusual weather, some scientists say, may become a staple for Americans. Global climate change, they argue, has seriously altered traditional weather patterns, leading to warmer, drier winters, and significantly hotter, drier summers.

The reaction to these altered weather patterns is what is disturbing some environmental groups. Agricultural organizations like the Farm Bureau and the National Corn Growers Association are pushing for increased federal crop insurance programs. Conservationists, however, argue that a more sustainable, and less expensive, solution would be to improve the soil. This could be done by diversifying crop production, lessening reliance on chemical fertilizers, and practicing crop rotation.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer