The Farm Bill: Here and Now (part 2 of 3)

The 2012 Farm Bill is approaching Judgment Day in the House: Today, a draft is being discussed and “marked up.” It has already gone through a number of revisions, but state governments and agricultural groups are clammering for last-minute revisions.Farming in the Prairie Pothole region-Courtesy of USDA-NRCSWhile the Senate had some excellent items included, we need to make sure these provisions are in the final House version as well. Two provisions that are in danger of not making it into the House version are vital to the prevention of polluted runoff in local waterways and the Mississippi River: Conservation Compliance and Sodsaver.We have been fighting for Conservation Compliance enforcement for several years. This is a provision that states if highly erodible land is being farmed, there must be some minimum erosion and water quality control measures in place. If these practices are not in place, the land owner is not eligible for federal subsidies. Unfortunately, Conservation Compliance is not tied to one of the largest subsidies: crop and profit insurance. The Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill re-attached Conservation Compliance to federally subsidized insurance, but it seems that the House might not take this vital step. We are working with our partners to get this vital piece of accountability in the House version.The Sodaver Provision is, in theory, a gift to the earth: It mandates that if native land is made “croppable,” it is not eligible for subsidiaries or damage funds. Essentially, it’s not insured. This conservation victory originally covered natural prairie grasses throughout the nation, but now its scope has been drastically reduced to only cover the “prairie pothole” region of the Midwest. There is little sense in this limitation, since land damage and erosion must be prevented wherever possible. Here on the Gulf, a fine-tuned, re-nationalized Sodsaver provision would be beneficial because of pollution and sediment filtering abilities of native grasses. We’re crossing our fingers for some last-minute revisions, but the key word here is “conservation.”Preserving provisions that will directly benefit conservation initiatives and promote clean water is going to be tough in the House. Hopefully they will take the Senate’s lead in preserving and strengthening conservation in the 2012 Farm Bill.Jacob Dilson is GRN’s Media and Communications Intern.

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