Report argues a federal conservation program needs improvement


The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to take portions of land out of production for 10-year contracts. (flickr/cjuneau)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 9, 2017

A new report argues that a federal program is not doing enough to prevent environmental degradation from agriculture.

The federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pays farmers to stop planting portions of their land to allow the land to regenerate. By doing this, the impact of agriculture on environmental issues such as contaminated drinking water and destruction of fish and wildlife habitat can be greatly reduced.

However, the contract between the farmer and the CRP only lasts 10 years, so once the contract is expired, often the farmer will replant the land and the conservation efforts made will be lost, and the taxpayer money used to invest in these practices will have gone to waste. A new report by the Environmental Working Group argues that permanent or long-term solutions should be prioritized for the sake of both the environment and the taxpayers.

In Iowa, 750,000 acres of land formerly protected under the CRP have been brought back into production, with a loss of nearly $760 million for Iowa taxpayers in environmental benefits, the Des Moines Register reports.

“We need these critical water-quality practices to be sustained,” Craig Cox, the environmental group’s senior vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said to The Des Moines Register. “Otherwise, we’re just spinning our wheels.”

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