Free-market think tank backs conservation compliance

Read a free-market think tank’s argument for requiring conservation compliance in any expansion of federally subsidized crop insurance.

Enacting a conservation compliance provision in the now-stalled federal Farm Bill would require farmers receiving crop insurance to follow certain minimum conservation standards aimed at protecting wetlands and reduce erosion.

Those compliance provisions were required for farmers receiving direct-payment subsidies under the farm bill that expired Sept. 30, but they were not a requirement for participation in crop insurance.

Direct payments are virtually certain to be eliminated, probably in favor of an expansion of crop insurance, in the new Farm Bill that Congress is expected to enact later this year or in 2013.

The version of a new Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Senate in June included a conservation compliance requirement for crop insurance eligibility. The version approved by a House committee in July did not.

The R Street Institute, a Washington-based non-profit think tank that says it espouses free markets, limited government and responsible environmental stewardship, last month issued a policy statement supporting a conservation compliance requirement.

The policy statement argues that all farm subsidies should be eliminated, but says that is not politically realistic and that enactment of a conservation compliance provision is a “second best” outcome.

Read a 2011 newsletter column by Gene Merriam, Freshwater Society president,  supporting conservation compliance. View video from a 2011 Freshwater lecture in which Craig A. Cox of the Environmental Working group advocated conservation compliance.  Read an October Des Moines Register interview with U. S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in which Vilsack predicted Congress will not pass a conservation compliance provision.