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Family farm advocates suspect profit motive behind some 'conservation' practices

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author Mark Moran, Producer-Editor

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023   

Midwest family farm advocates have sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, opposing recent additions to conservation practices they said are bad for the environment.

The measures are funded through the Inflation Reduction Act. The USDA added a six-page list the department said will improve environmental conditions in the Midwest, and includes things such as improving crop rotation methods, reducing soil erosion, and enhancing wildlife habitat.

It also calls for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to add anaerobic digesters designed to collect methane from manure to be used for electricity.

Kim Hagemann, a board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said the operations still have to dispose of the massive amounts of manure left behind after the methane is extracted.

"The manure then gets spread on our land and then it goes into our waterways," Hagemann pointed out. "That process does not reduce the pollutants in that manure. That manure is still here for us to deal with."

Hagemann argued the USDA investment in anaerobic digesters is actually an incentive for large operations to raise even more livestock in one place and profit from the increased methane. Large operators countered they are responding to a rising demand for safely grown meat and are constantly working to modernize their environmental practices.

Hagemann contended while the USDA's conservation programs are crucial to protecting the environment, things such as anaerobic digesters can have untended consequences in places like Iowa, where she noted 54% of the state's waterways are already contaminated with manure runoff, and the digesters act as an incentive to make things worse.

"We want real climate change solutions and we do not want taxpayers to be doling out money to these CAFOs so that they can continue to pollute our waterways in Iowa," Hagemann emphasized.

The USDA also added money to establish Monarch butterfly habitat, restore native plant communities, and limit wildfire risk.

Disclosure: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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