Gene Merriam urges conservation in the Farm Bill

gene merriam150
Gene Merriam

Recently, I sent a letter – on behalf of the Freshwater Society – to Minnesota’s members of Congress.

I urged them to protect water by voting to include a provision in the Farm Bill that would make farmers eligible for crop insurance, which is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers,  only if they adopt conservation practices.

I urge you to write a similar letter to our two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative.  Here is a link to their mailing addresses and email addresses.

Congress is once again considering renewal of the Farm Bill. Sometime soon federal lawmakers are virtually certain to pass legislation that will significantly expand subsidized crop insurance.

When that happens, it is very important that the new Farm Bill include a provision that is in the Senate-passed legislation but is not in the version that a House committee recommended last summer. The Senate provision says farmers would need to protect wetlands and highly erodible land if they want to take advantage of the big contributions taxpayers make to take much of the business risk out of farming.

Freshwater Society President
Gene Merriam wrote this
column for the December 2012
Facets of Freshwater

Every year, U.S. taxpayers subsidize both the farmers who buy crop insurance and the companies that sell them the insurance.

This year, the government will pay out about $7 billion in premium subsidies – about 63 cents of every $1 in total premiums – plus about $1.5 billion in administrative expenses for the insurers.

In addition, depending on how high this year’s insured losses climb because of the drought in the Midwest, the government could be on the hook for $2 billion to $3 billion in an additional payout, according to Vince Smith, a Montana State University agricultural economist.

That is a lot of money. In return for it, taxpayers have a right to expect that all farmers who benefit from the insurance will practice the kind of conservation that many farmers already practice to protect the public’s lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water.

And this is nothing new. Until Congress removed it in 1996, this so-called “conservation compliance” had been a condition of eligibility.

So, even if you have never written a letter to lawmaker before, I urge you to send a note or an email to your Senators and Representatives. Tell them you want conservation compliance to be part of the new Farm Bill, whenever it is approved.  They will know what you mean and what you expect.