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From August 28, 2001

Farm Bill Needs More Conservation Cash

According to Reuters, Environmental Defense and American Rivers are urging Congress to allot more than $6 billion in annual funding to farmers who help prevent agricultural waste from polluting land, water and wildlife. They argue that the $73.5 billion US farm subsidy bill before the House of Representatives offers little in conservation spending.

The latest farm bill subsidizes massive livestock operations and encourages producers to increase traditional crop production, which uses vast amounts of fertilizer. "Most farmers and feedlot operators are willing to do their part to clean up America's most polluted bays, but they are repeatedly rejected when they seek federal help," said Scott Faber, water resource expert for Environmental Defense.

The groups blame agricultural waste, such as livestock manure and crop fertilizer, as the main contributor to 10 of 17 most polluted bays in the country, including the Northern Gulf of Mexico, San Francisco Bay and the Chesapeake Bay.

The House approved the omnibus farm bill in July, which gave grain, cotton and soybean growers an additional $45 billion over 10 years, while conservation funding would rise by $16.5 billion. Green funding currently gets about $2 billion a year.

The bill is expected to be debated when the lawmakers return to work in September.