From Iowa to Gulf Restoration Network:
By: Anthony J. Gerst:
It is difficult for many urbanites to realize the significance of the Farm Bill. Grant it the United States is now a net importer of foodstuffs, how and why has this happened? The Farm Bill is crucial to this nation. It affects the aspects of all Americans daily. From environmental issues like fertilizing Iowa’s cornfields to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the Farm Bill affects you.
Hailing from Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin is the Chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee in Washington D.C. The good senator fights a noble battle for the people of this nation. I offer this quote from a recent communication with his office. “The senate Agriculture Committee heard testimony from Rhonda Stewart. . . her food stamp benefits run out toward the end of the month. . . It is simply unacceptable for American families to go hungry. So my farm bill will include overdue updates to the food stamp program.”
In a recent release from the Gulf Restoration Network, they express concerns over the upcoming Farm Bill legislation. They point out that the increased production of corn is having dire effects upon the Gulf Coast. Rest assured that these concerns are not unheeded by the Chairman of this distinguished committee. Tom Harkin however most work within the framework of governmental compromise to achieve anything. I quote, “But for this to happen, we need to make major investments in research. We need to ramp up production of new energy crop such as biomass… To do these things, we need new investments in the farm bill’s energy title.”
I have expressed my concerns that Industrial Hemp is the number one crop for this nation and the world to invest in on several occasions. How about lending a poor old scribe a hand in getting this message across?
Before we move on to an issue of mutual concern within these communications, let us look at one more initiative that the Farm Bill and Senator Harkin is working upon that affects all of us as a nation. “My bill will make investments for the future – investments in renewable energy production, environmental incentives, our food assistance programs, fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. . .” For pities sake people, our schools have virtually eliminated physical education and hardly feed your children nutritional food. Listen to this man at least he’s trying to offer proper nutrition to starving minds.
According to the Gulf Restoration Network they are concerned with the lack of funds available for the Conservation Reserve Program. Newsflash, millions of acres in this program have been opened up to production without penalty. The issue is not additional funds; the issue is the preservation of wetlands and habitat that has restored flora and fauna to the nation. I hate this move, since it has already been done, in retrospect to the fact here is another quote from Harkin’s letter. “With millions of acres of fragile, erodible land being taken out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and put into production, we have an acute need to boost investments in conservation, especially conservation on working lands. As Fred Wilson, a farmer in. . . told me. ‘Given the soil types and structure in this area, if you don’t no-till, you’re in trouble down the road.”’
Two programs that may still be salvaged are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). I quote from the Gulf Network update, “Strengthening the conservation compliance provisions. Specifically, conservation compliance should apply to all cropland receiving farm program benefits, not just erodible land.” I believe that is what Senator Harkin and Fred Wilson are driving at, something that voices like Fred Wilson are encouraging. I have watched as fields harvested this season have been rapidly replanted in winter wheat, fields that have expanded in acreage I might add.
Another issues brought up by the Gulf Network is: “Funding for the Discovery Watersheds Program in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, aimed at promoting cost-effective approaches to reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff that ultimately contributes to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.”
It sure nuff get lonely being an activist eco persona here in the Heartland. As you are well aware the majority of eco-friendly warriors reside in the more heavily populated centers of the east and western parts of our nation. Senator Harkin, Fred Wilson, and myself are not alone in the Heartland in this battle. However, we sure could use a couple of thousand e-mails from the coast to help design the current Farm Bill. After all people, it does affect every single person in this nation, and has global, one could say, climatic ramifications.