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Who cares about a government shutdown when the government's been shut down all along?

Submitted Wednesday, October 2nd 2013 11:35 pm by Timothy S. Jacobson
in   government shutdown    CRP    Conservation Reserve Program    farm bill    soil erosion    hypoxia    dead zone    politics  


Who cares about a government shutdown when the government's been shut down all along?

or, why we should be scared about the farm bill being stalled yet again

By Timothy S. Jacobson

~The Nonprofit Provocateur~

October 2, 2013

The federal government has shut down. Yeah, what's new? Sure, it'll waste millions of dollars and inconvenience millions of people. But we've seen those tactics before, and it's not necessarily the worse thing going on in Washington.

For starters, how about the inability of Congress to pass a farm bill, which last happened in 2008? That half-a-trillion-dollar piece of legislation has far-reaching implications for way more than our agricultural economy. It affects all Americans every day at the grocery store, the department store, and even with the water we drink.

Many folks may think the big fight is only about arcane subsidies to farmers and the proposed gutting of the food stamp program, which they figure won't affect them personally.

What people may not realize is that the farm bill not only affects food and agriculture today, but it may have severe consequences for the health of our lands, waters and wildlife for decades or centuries.

Coon Valley, Wis. erosion, with a horse for scale. c. 1934

[Above is a photo of a Coon Valley, Wis. farm, circa 1934. Notice how the man and the horse are dwarfed by the massive erosion gully caused by poor farming practices on highly-erodible soils--bad practices from which the CRP program had been doing a great job of saving us and our soil.]

The farm bill covers conservation programs that secure our soils from being washed down the Mississippi and other rivers and help save us from the types of devastation to our country's ability to feed itself that occurred in the 1930s. In particular, the benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are eroding faster than a handful of loose soil placed below a downspout during a thunderstorm.

CRP land is vulnerable land--highly erodible land (steep and/or next to waterways, for example) that should never be plowed up and laid bare. And yet, the amount of land enrolled in CRP, at 27.1 million acres, is down by 26 percent or 9.7 million acres in the past five years, to a 25-year low. Our drinking water and streams are threatened with nitrate and pesticide pollution, too. At the same time, the massive Gulf hypoxia or dead zone grows unabated--caused largely by Midwestern agricultural runoff.

The hard statistics on the benefits of CRP are staggeringly positive. For example, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute estimated 278 million pounds less nitrogen and 59 million pounds less phosphorus left fields in 2007 due to CRP, 95 and 86 percent reductions, respectively. FAPRI also estimated 203 million pounds of nitrogen and 49 million pounds of phosphorus were intercepted by CRP buffers in 2007. Since 1986, CRP has reduced more than 8 billion tons of soil erosion–the equivalent of approximately 267 million large dump truck loads of dirt! Ducks Unlimited credits CRP as responsible for 25.7 million additional ducks produced in the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region alone during 1992-2003.

America may not be able to afford the political games being played over ObamaCare. But when Congress plays politics with our soil, our drinking water quality and our ability as a country to feed ourselves over the long term, we're being strangled and slowly killed by our own government.

It's time for Americans to tell their members of Congress to get back to work and stop screwing around with the future of our country.


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