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Report: Farm Bill Budget Cuts Threaten Great Lakes

April 9, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - With the national Farm Bill up for reauthorization in September, a new report by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition warns that proposed cuts to it threaten the Great Lakes. The report points out that farm conservation programs funded by the farm bill have lost more than $1 billion in the last two budgets and more cuts are proposed.

Jordan Lubetkin, regional senior manager for communications with the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Center, says that when farmers lose federal funding for preventive measures like those that keep soil from eroding, the Great Lakes suffer.

"They're seeing a resurgence of some of these water-quality problems that we hadn't seen since the '60s and '70s. One of the main factors is excessive fertilizers and manure that runs off into waters."

Rodell Lea has been farming in Wisconsin all his life. The farm bill provides subsidies so that he can farm in a way that prevents water pollution.

"We don't till the ground any more than we have to. And I have a buffer strip of 66 feet on each side of my drainage ditch to protect from any soil going into the water stream."

Lea says he won't use up his land with just one crop such as corn or soybeans. And he says planting hay on the hillsides where soil could erode is something he learned a long time ago.

"My father taught me, you keep the hillsides in hay. I don't care what the price of grain is, you always want to save the soil, and I guess that was embedded in me all through my farming years."

Lubetkin says a lot of these practices are common sense solutions that produce long-term results.

"Cutting these programs will not save the taxpayer one penny. Cutting these programs will actually cost more money, because the problems will only get worse and more costly to solve."

The report says that for the last three years there has been a bi-partisan effort to restore the Great Lakes, and cutting farm programs that prevent problems will set back that effort.

President Obama's budget calls for more than $400 million in cuts to farm conservation programs. The Republican budget proposed in the U.S. House calls for those programs to be cut by $16 billion. That Republican House budget proposes 180 billion dollars in overall farm program cuts over ten years.

The report is at tinyurl.com/75amq5f/

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI