Are you ready for some mediocre commentary on not quite current events? Well, DailyDisgust is back online!Posted: June 30, 2012
I spent three days pleasantly isolated in the woods of northern Wisconsin with my family. Aside from some poorly programmed pop radio, I was happily isolated from the media, the internet, and my email. While it is somewhat humbling to come back out of the woods realizing that one hasn’t been missed, it is good to be back in the know and in possession of indoor plumbing!
The DailyDisgust family heads to northern Wisconsin tomorrow for a week of camping. Posting here, which seems to have slowed to a trickle recently, will be shut off till our return.
Good to hear some good news on the farm bill front.
Of the many good things that the Iowa Environmental Council does, keeping us abreast via their blog of legislative actions that affect all of us is something they do particularly well.
Yesterday, the United State Senate passed a number of beneficial amendments to the 2012 farm bill, including the Chambliss amendment that would reconnect taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance with basic conservation expectations.
Here’s some initial reaction from Ferd Hoefner, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:
“The bill reported by the Committee has been significantly improved these past two days,” he said. “The Chambliss amendment brings common sense conservation protections to the farm safety net to protect the natural resources on which our food security depends.”
The Iowa Environmental Council will continue to provide updates and analysis about the Farm Bill as it moves through Congress this year. Right now, though, we can say thank you to all of our action alert volunteers who have spoken out for conservation in the farm bill all year long!
Recently Governor Branstad used the line-item veto to cut out $500,000 dollars that had been allocated for the Food Bank of Iowa by the state legislature. You can read the text of the item veto here–note that the Governor’s office can’t even be bothered to scan documents straight. Branstad argues that private funds should be used to fund the food bank. While I agree that private people and business should make sure to support charities, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the State of Iowa supporting the good works of non-profits such as the Food Bank of Iowa.
Dean Lerner, the former Director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals had a great op-ed about this issue recently in the Gazette:
Food Bank veto says a lot about Branstad by Dean Lerner in the Cedar Rapids Gazette Jun. 8, 2012
Branstad’s recent veto speaks legions about him, and us. The money will now revert to the state’s general fund, adding to nearly a billion-dollar surplus. In his veto message, the governor stated that he “strongly support[s] the Food Bank of Iowa and their important work to help needy Iowans.” However, he “believe[s] that private donations are the best way to support the Food Bank.” The Des Moines Register Editorial Board agreed, adding that there are already federal programs to feed the hungry, and that state assistance might discourage charitable donations. Really?
Maybe the editorial board missed reading the June 1 front page of the Register’s Business section: “Study: Income doesn’t cover needs for 1 in 4 working families in Iowa.” And contrast the governor’s “strong support” for the Food Bank to never-ending headlines such as the Register stories “Most [Iowa] tax incentives awarded to wealthy companies” (Jan. 15), “1st-quarter profits up 34 percent for Iowa Banks” (May 25), and “CEOs hauled in record pay during 2011, study finds” (May 27). Please don’t tell us that tax dollars haven’t been used, directly, or indirectly, to make this all possible!
Perhaps the governor’s plan is that the tremendous swell of riches to already wealthy companies, banks and CEOs — aided and abetted by his and the Republican colleagues’ policies — will help stimulate the private donations the Food Bank should, instead, rely upon. Of course, let’s not forget that their “generous” donations are accompanied by charitable tax deductions, and plenty of public praise for corporate citizenship. Some might view this as another version of “trickle down” economics.
I made a donation to the Food Bank of Iowa today and encourage you to do the same. You can do so at this link. I recommend filling in the bottom portion of the page as I did as shown below:
Not a huge Chris Matthews fan, but I certainly agree with every word and sentiment here.
I’ve posted before about farmers pushing the edges of the fields outward and planting in areas not fit for row crops. The Gazette had a good piece this past weekend about the amount of land that farmers are taking out of the Conservation Reserve Program in order to cash in on the high prices for corn. This program pays farmers a per acre “rent” in exchange for having them plant beneficial cover crops–this has a huge environmental impact from providing wildlife habitat to helping create buffers to prevent soil and fertilizer run off. Sadly, the amount that the USDA pays per acre is not keeping up with what farmers can get from switching back to growing corn.
High cost of land, crops taking bite out of conservation acres by Orlan Love in the Cedar Rapids Gazette Jun. 17, 2012
In Iowa, expiring CRP contracts exceeded renewals and new program entries by more than 76,000 acres.
With CRP contracts on more than 175,000 acres expiring this year, Iowa landowners submitted offers of 105,000 acres, with contracts accepted on 99,684 acres.
That translates to a loss of over forty percent of the farmland that was set aside as part of this valuable program. Of course given that there are over 30 million acres of farmland in Iowa, either number is just a drop in the bucket. However, given the complete artificiality of Iowa’s landscape, any bit of protected land helps!
This problem is not limited to just Iowa:
States in the pheasant belt, which happens to coincide with the grain belt, lost nearly 2 million CRP acres at the conclusion of the recent signup.
Five states with annual pheasant harvests typically larger than Iowa’s — North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska — lost a combined 1.2 million acres of CRP.
And things likely won’t get better anytime soon, as the current draft of the Farm Bill continues the erosion of the CRP:
While the corn rush is squeezing CRP acreage, so, too, are federal budget constraints. A new farm bill working its way through the Senate would reduce the CRP acreage cap from 32 million to 30 million next year, with further reductions to 25 million acres by 2017.
There’s lots of areas of concern in the current Farm Bill, chief among them a proposed system of crop insurance that will encourage farmers to continue the recent trend to put increasingly marginal land into production. Much, much more on the Farm Bill at the Iowa Environmental Council’s blog.