As a possible 2012 farm bill looms, the agriculture committee leaders and their industrial agriculture lobby remoras are sorting through the smoking ruins of the 2011 secret farm bill process. They hope to come up with a unified position from which to begin deliberations on a new farm bill. Sadly, one thing they’ve all agreed to cut is 7 million acres from the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and pays farmers to keep highly erodible land out of production.
While many recognize that putting land into conservation programs leads to cleaner water, healthier soil and robust wildlife habitat, few realize that CRP land also plays a major role in fighting climate change. According to the USDA, one acre of protected land sequesters 1.66 metric tons of carbon every year, carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. The 7 million acres about to be cut from the Conservation Reserve Program have been putting 11.6 million metric tons of carbon into the soil every year.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that this amount of carbon is equivalent to the annual emissions of 2 million passenger vehicles. All that stored carbon will be sent back into the atmosphere if those 7 million acres are plowed under to plant more industrial-scale corn for ethanol and livestock feed.