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Re: E-M:/ Coalition Applauds Sen. Stabenow for Introducing Key Farm Bill Amendment

Enviro-Mich message from "Alexander J. Sagady" <ajs@sagady.com>


I have often wondered about programs like these and whether they 
can ever be a solution to sediment pollution problems specifically and 
the broader issue of the water quality impacts of agriculture in general.

As near as I can tell, what this legislation does is to pay farmers to do the 
right thing on agriculture soil erosion and sedimentation control.   It is similar to 
other past ag money bills to pay farmers for comprehensive nutrient management planning, 
to pay farmers to establish filter strips, to pay farmers for conservation buffers and 
set-asides and other examples of paying farmers to do the right thing.

We've had decades of supporting soil conservation service and natural resources
conservation services in agriculture, but look at the mess that southern Michigan 
rivers are still in and look at the mess that Michigan drain commissioners (at least most 
of them) leave area watercourses from a water quality standpoint.

My impression is that we can never pay all of the farmers enough to actually resolve the 
problems that modern agricultural practices presently cause in the environment.   If 
you stop paying some selected agricultural operators that presently carry out
exemplary practices because they've been paid to do them by the 
taxpayers, there is no assurances that they 
will continue to do the right thing when the funding stops.

Congress can financially jump start corn-based ethanol leading to higher 
corn prices, then corn farmers abandon crop rotation to grow corn year after 
year and the effect of that is to far outstrip any benefits coming from paying  a handful of farmers to 
do the right thing.

If agricultural operations are harming water quality with excessive amounts of 
turbidity, nutrients, pesticide and phosphorus in receiving waters, you could never 
spend enough taxpayer dollars to pay farmers to do the right thing to get it all cleaned up 
and keep it that way.

Farmers are not exempt from Michigan's soil erosion and sedimentation law and 
other water quality law, but they are often treated as though they were.   Because of 
Michigan DEQ's failures to properly carry out impaired water quality designations
for narrative water quality standards, the subsequent failure to impose water quality 
based effluent limitations in water quality plans and permits, the exemption of 
stream segments from water quality planning because they are allegedly under 
"management" by drain commissioners and Michigan's blind spot when it comes to 
managing the environmental effects of agricultural on groundwater, agricultural operators
frequently can carry out environmentally damaging practices with impunity.

My concern is that perpetuating a system where the agriculture sector continually expects
to be paid to do the right thing only makes all of these problems worse in the long run without ever
getting ag operators off of the drug of taxpayer subsidies and without ever getting them to 
sustainable, environmentally beneficent practices without subsidies.

This, of course, is also part of the larger crop subsidies issue that feeds into such things as 
whether regional crop patterns fail to serve regional customers.   I'm beginning to think the 
100 mile diet people have the fundamentally right idea, and that transporting apples from 
North Carolina to sell at Krogers in the Fall, or growing brocolli in the summer in California 
and sending it to Michigan all represent a fundamental taxpayer-financed distortions of 
agriculture and food markets that create unnecessary energy demand and deliver less desireable food to 

I'm not sure that promoting the conventional wisdom about agriculture, subsidies and taxpayers
can ever in the future be a sustainable practice leading to sustainable agriculture.   It is one thing
to fund research and demonstration....that I clearly support in agriculture.   But I'm increasingly 
skeptical about paying agricultural operators to do the "right thing."   In fact, paying
ag operators for improvements to meet CAFO regulations, for example, just makes sure that
large operators most benefit from taxpayer funds and increases the size concentration in 
agriculture at the expense of small operators.

At 03:19 PM 10/24/2007, Jordan Lubetkin wrote:
>Coalition Applauds Sen. Stabenow for Introducing Key Farm Bill Amendment
>ANN ARBOR, MI (October 24)-The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today applauded Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing an amendment to re-authorize a vital program in the Farm Bill, the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control.  
>"We thank Sen. Stabenow for standing up for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their economy and quality of life," said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. "The program is one of the manageable solutions we need to implement now to restore the lakes, because the longer we wait the problems get worse and the solutions more costly."
>Conservation programs contained in the Farm Bill like the Great Lakes Basin Program are key elements of a comprehensive strategy to restore the lakes, as identified in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a plan put forward in 2005 to prevent sewage contamination, stop invasive species introductions and restore wetlands and other habitat.
>That strategy has since been introduced in Congress as the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which awaits passage.
>The Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control is a federal and state partnership to protect and improve Great Lakes water quality by reducing soil erosion and controlling sedimentation. 
>Sen. Stabenow's amendment authorizes $5 million for the program, which seeks to reduce the on-site damages caused by soil erosion on farms, developments, stream banks and shorelines, while also curbing off-site damage to harbors, streams, fish and wildlife habitat, recreational facilities, and public works systems. 
>Since 1991, the program has funded 389 projects. The program has recently helped communities in Michigan restore coldwater trout streams and horse farm owners in Ohio operate facilities that do not harm the surrounding natural resources.
>For every $1,000 spent by the program, 128 tons of soil is kept on the land and out of Great Lakes rivers and lakes. 
>"This program is vital to the restoration of the Great Lakes, and it's vital to people in our communities," said Skelding. "This program clearly illustrates that we have solutions. It is time to use them."
>Farm Bill conservation programs are critical to restoring the Great Lakes, providing funding and technical assistance to farmers to restore and protect wetlands and wildlife habitat that serves to filter pesticides, fertilizers and sediment out of water that millions of people depend on for drinking, bathing and swimming.
>Farm Bill programs also support the region's $18-billion annual hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching industry.
>However many more Great Lakes farmers want to participate in the Farm Bill conservation programs than can be accommodated because of insufficient federal funding. Two out of three farmers willing to take actions to help the environment are turned down due to lack of funds.
>The recently passed Farm Bill includes increases of $4 billion to enroll more farmers in the successful conservation programs.
>October 24, 2007
>Jeff Skelding, Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (202) 797-6893, <mailto:JSkelding@nwf.org>JSkelding@nwf.org
>Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (734) 887-7109, <mailto:Lubetkin@nwf.org>Lubetkin@nwf.org
>*** Please note my new phone number below--(734) 887-7109 . ***
>Jordan Lubetkin
>Regional Communications Manager
>National Wildlife Federation
>Great Lakes Natural Resource Center
>213 W. Liberty St., Suite 200
>Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1398
>Phone: (734) 887-7109 
>Cell: (734) 904-1589
>Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children's future.

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
Expert Witness Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and 
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
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