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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Some SD farmers unhappy with industrial ag getting conservation funds

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Friday, December 8, 2023   

Agriculture accounts for more than 10% of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. Advocates for small farms in South Dakota hope the next Farm Bill curbs spending for industrial operations linked to those emissions.

Like many sectors, "ag" is under pressure to reduce its carbon footprint. Congress recently punted reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which maps out spending for many farm and food-aid programs - to 2024.

Aaron Johnson, an organic producer south of Madison, hopes when lawmakers ramp up the debate, they take a closer look at conservation funding and where the money has been flowing.

"Nationwide," he said, "I see some abuse with the EQIP program and these biodigesters, that are just not functional unless they are heavily subsidized, by taxpayers and by the Farm Bill."

Johnson was referring to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which funds biodigesters. They capture methane from manure at factory farms, converting it to energy sources. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, it's the most expensive program practice and does more harm than good. But large operators contend they're responding to the demand for safely grown meat, and are always working to modernize environmental practices.

However, Johnson pointed out that including industrial agriculture in conservation funding leaves less money for smaller producers who carry out non-mechanical practices.

"I'm doing a nutrient management program, making sure that I'm not over-applying or under-applying -- using exactly what crops need," he said.

Johnson said that makes the soil on his land healthier, making it easier to absorb water and reduce any harmful runoff. He was one of many farmers who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss these issues with members of Congress.


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