I appreciate the good intentions of farm owners Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman who are making good effort to conserve their farmland and our environment. In their Iowa View essay published in the Des Moines Register they wrote, “… transitioning farm practices takes time to understand and accept, and requires resources to implement. ” They urged Congress to renew and increase funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) as part of the Farm Bill. CSP pays farmers to implement conservation practices. They implied that their farm operator might not continue conservation practices if he loses his CSP payments. (See link to Iowa View essay below.)
The problem with CSP, which started in 2004, is that it is not a transitional program. It doesn’t create any permanent solution. It creates dependency. Conservation efforts continue only so long as payments continue. If we stop paying the subsidies the conservation stops. We need to use both “the carrot and the stick.” Maybe now is the time to start penalizing farmers who pollute our water and air – just like we do to every other business.