Failed Farm Bill Bad for Taxpayers, Resources

“The House farm bill failed commonsense conservation standards, and it failed to get enough votes to pass.”

06-20-2013 // Julie Sibbing

The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass a farm bill that if enacted, would have been the worst in at least 25 years for fish and wildlife. The House bill failed any test of responsibility that taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be spent in ways that harm our land, water, wildlife and the public good. It’s critical to enact a five-year farm bill this year that protects conservation.

Corn stubble stores carbon

“The House farm bill failed commonsense conservation standards, and it failed to get enough votes to pass,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Reasonable measures to protect taxpayers and natural resources must be included a farm bill. The National Wildlife Federation will continue to fight for a farm bill that includes a link between conservation compliance and crop insurance, and a National Sodsaver program.”

Most significantly, the House bill would have created a new loophole in a longstanding requirement that farmers who receive taxpayer subsidies refrain from draining wetlands or farming erosion-prone soils without a conservation plan – because the bill failed to extend these protections to crop insurance premium subsidies, the largest subsidy farmers receive. This could lead to the draining of 1.5 to 3.3 million acres of wetlands and greatly increased soil erosion and nutrient pollution into our lakes, streams, rivers and coastal waters.

Major agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers, along with fiscal groups, including Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union supported closing this damaging loophole.

“It is outrageous that the House Agriculture Committee leaders opposed this wholly reasonable, basic conservation provision to protect the public good,” Schweiger said.

The House bill also would’ve failed taxpayers and wildlife by continuing to provide perverse incentives to farmers who plow up fast-declining native grasslands, even where the land is unlikely to produce a good crop. “Failing to trim incentives that lead to destruction of one of the nation’s most endangered ecosystems to support marginal crop production is just the height of irresponsibility, squandering both taxpayer dollars and our precious natural resources,” Schweiger concluded.

Get Our E-Newsletter 
Subscribe to National Wildlife Magazine!