As work on the long-stalled Farm Bill resumes in a Congressional conference committee this week, across the nation, 278 organizations including many in Iowa have signed a new letter calling on Congress to take responsible action for conservation.
The groups urge Congress to reconnect taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance to common-sense conservation protections for soil and water–a part of the farm bill known as “conservation compliance.” The letter also calls on Congress to support a national “sodsaver” provision to reduce taxpayer subsidies for converting native grasslands to crop production.
“Both of these provisions, included in the Senate bill, ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to incentivize risky or environmentally destructive practices,” the 278 groups say. “Conservation compliance and sodsaver are among the top farm bill priorities for our groups, and both will be determining factors as we consider our support for a final bill.”
As the letter explains, much is at stake as Congress considers this policy:
Without these key protections, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on crop insurance over coming years will subsidize soil erosion that will choke our waterways, increase the cost of water treatment and dredging, and reduce the long term productivity of farmland. It will also allow for the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding, loss of wildlife habitat and decreased water quality.
A diverse group of organizations representing Iowans, including the Iowa Environmental Council, have signed the letter. Other Iowa organizations signing include Citizens for a Healthy Iowa, the Des Moines Water Works, the Driftless Chapter of Iowa Trout Unlimited, the Iowa Bowhunters Association, the Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, the Iowa Wildlife Federation, the Izaak Walton League of America, Maquoketa Valley Chapter, the North Bear Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Quad City Audubon Society, the Spring Creeks Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Iowa Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Wagner Conservation Coalition. The Environmental Law and Policy Center, a regional organization with offices in Iowa, also signed, as did the Environmental Working Group, whose national agriculture program is based in Ames.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) coordinated this national effort. NSAC’s website has the full letter and list of organizations. You can also read about the latest grassland loss data from USDA by clicking here.