Editorial: Pulling acres in and out of production isn’t ‘conservation’

At the current pace, our state’s well-documented problems with water pollution could take a few human generations to solve.
Iowa farmers have pulled nearly 750,000 idled acres back into production in a seven-year span, most in areas known for highly erodible soils, including southern and northeastern parts of the state, the environmental group’s study showed.
Kelsey Kremer/The Register Nearly 100,000 of those acres were in just three Iowa counties known more for their rolling hills and hunting habitat than their cropland: Ringgold, Taylor and Wayne, on the Missouri border.
The Environmental Working Group calculates that taxpayers lost nearly $760 million in environmental benefits when farmers took the land out of the conservation program and put it back into crop production.
Make no mistake: The Conservation Reserve Program still has a place for certain acres, and it may be the best fit for some farmers who can’t take land out of production for longer periods.
The cost of CRP is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $20 billion over the next 10 years.
A better option for increased funding would be the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Wetland Reserve Easements.
These programs often cost more per acre, but have longer-lasting payoffs.
The Environmental Working Group study pointed to programs in Minnesota and Michigan that are helping landowners restore wetlands and create filter strips in return for long-term easements.
These programs took a hit in the 2014 Farm Bill.

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