New Farm Bill Could Have Devastating Effects on Water Quality

Agricultural nonpoint-source pollution has repeatedly been cited as a leading cause of degraded water quality in water bodies ranging from tributaries to coastal estuaries. Approximately 40 percent of US agricultural land—roughly 15 percent of all the land in the United States—is enrolled in farm bill conservation programs aimed at improving soil retention and reducing nutrient pollution. But as Congress looks for ways to reduce discretionary funding, these conservation programs are on the chopping block in the 2012 reauthorization of the bill. The impact on water quality could be devastating. The conservation title of the farm bill cost $844 million in fiscal year (FY) 2012. Although there are many conservation programs within the bill, one of the most widely known is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The goal of the CRP, which has existed in various forms since the Agriculture Act of 1954, is to counteract erosion by providing rental payments and cost-share assistance to landowners who take sensitive land out of production. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D–MI), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, credits CRP for preventing in 2012 a repeat of the 1930s Dust Bowl that devastated the American Southwest: "The soil, while it was dry, stayed on the ground because [of] the Conservation Reserve Program." The impact of the CRP in reducing nonpoint-source pollution has been substantial. The Food and Agricultural P...
Source: Washington Watch - Category: Biology Authors: Source Type: news

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