General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation.
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey says modifications to three USDA conservation programs will help organic farmers get established. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Casey said with demand on the rise for organic food, "we must do all we can to help American farmers and ranchers meet this demand."
The federally subsidized crop-insurance program, which costs $8 billion a year, "is an unlimited, uncapped entitlement program," says a coalition of 119 small-farm, organic and land-stewardship groups in farm bill proposals at odds with large-scale agriculture. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition proposed an annual limit of $50,000 in premium subsidies for the major crops, such as corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton, and a limit of $80,000 for higher-value specialty crops, such as fruit and vegetables.
The “farm bill coalition” that guides the $90 billion-a-year farm bill through Congress traditionally is composed of farm, conservation and antihunger groups. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer unveiled an alternative bill that would reduce farm subsidies, strengthen soil and water stewardship rules, …
Farmers taking part in a survey about cover crops reported a nearly 3-percent increase in wheat yields when cover crops are used in the offseason, says the Conservation Technology Information Center. This was the first time the survey compiled enough responses to calculate the impact on wheat; past surveys associated cover crops with higher corn and soybean yields.
To get long-lasting benefits, USDA should pursue land easements, rather than pay billions of dollars to landowners who abandon a short-term commitment to land stewardship whenever commodity prices boom, says the Environmental Working Group.
Come November, 11 months from now, Minnesota farmers will be required to leave a 50-foot strip of permanent vegetation along waterways to filter runoff from their fields – a landmark conservation effort. However, Minnesota Public Radio says some county officials are asking for a delay because of confusion over how the law is supposed to work and a lack of money for them to enforce it.
The election of Donald Trump means that environmentalists can forget about new, broader rules on land and water stewardship by farmers, said a prominent Republican farm leader. "Those new regulations are not going to happen," said Chuck Conner, who added that the 2018 farm bill would continue the system of incentives for voluntary action against erosion and polluted runoff.
The collapse in crop and livestock prices since 2013 will result in the lowest net farm income since 2009, says USDA. In the final estimate of the year, the Economic Research Service pegged farm income at $66.9 billion, down $4.5 billion from its August estimate and barely more than half of the record income that producers enjoyed just three years ago.
Voluntary soil and water conservation programs "aren't leading to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment," says the Environmental Working Group in unveiling a database that tracks federal conservation spending to the county level. EWG says Congress should require farmers to perform more stewardship work in exchange for farm supports, and focus scattershot conservation programs on the practices with the greatest payoff in the areas with the greatest need.
Some 45 projects across the country will share $27 million in Conservation Innovation grants to reduce farm runoff, improve water quality and preserve farmland, announced the USDA. Recipients range from the City of Chicago to public universities and the National Corn Growers Association.
A former high-ranking USDA official, Bruce I. Knight, argues in an opinion piece on Agri-Pulse that the conservation reserve program should focus on "environmentally sensitive acreage" rather than placing high-quality croplands under CRP contracts. "When we use CRP in the conservation portfolio of tools we should use it surgically and strategically to trap and treat nutrient runoff or to provide specific habitat benefits rather than large-scale whole field enrollments," he writes.
Restoration of wetlands in the Midwest "has the potential to significantly reduce peak river flows during floods - not only now, but also in the future if heavy rains continue to increase in intensity," says Oregon State U.
A meta study of two key food producing regions in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa concluded that conservation agriculture has minimal impact on carbon sequestration, meaning it won't have much impact on mitigating climate change.