Amid High Food Prices, USDA Considers Un-Conserving Land

<p>The USDA is considering a plan to put conservation land back into agricultural production -- a move farmers are trumpeting, but environmentalists are opposing.</p>
July 13, 2008, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"At issue is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), under which the government has paid farmers to stop growing row crops, such as corn and soybeans, on 34 million acres across the country. Designed in the mid-1980s to hold down production and bolster commodity prices, the $1.8 billion-a-year program has turned into a major boon for conservation, with much of the acreage planted with perennial grasses or trees, or restored to wetlands."

"But the ethanol boom, widespread flooding and high prices for feed crops have changed the equation. Livestock producers have been howling about the high price of animal feed. Pork producers say they are losing $30 per pig."

"Environmentalists argue that the short-term gains from additional row crops would be outweighed by long-term environmental damage."

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Published on Friday, July 11, 2008 in The Washington Post
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