The American farmer won’t be taken for granted; their families will grow fat on gas, they say, not on government money. With fuel growing ever more expensive, many farmers have opted for a fat paycheck, breaking their promise to practice responsible agriculture by preserving conservation lands.
With fuel prices rising, farmers throughout the U.S. are foregoing government-sponsored conservation programs that pay them not to cultivate their land. In lieu of government buy-outs, farmers are now planting wheat, soybeans, corn, and other crops suddenly made precious by the scarcity of fuel and its ever-skyrocketing cost. These cash crops, turned to biofuels, will reap a handsome profit for struggling farmers, but will jeopardize over twenty years of conservation efforts to protect the natural habitats of waterfowl and other wildlife.
Previously conserved acreage is rapidly being converted into farmland for the cultivation of fuel crops. In the fall of 2007, farmers reclaimed “as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined,” the NYT reports.
From the NYT:
Kerry Dockter, a rancher in Denhoff, N.D., has about 450 acres of grassland in the program. “When this program first came about, it was a pretty good thing,” he said. “But times have definitely changed.”
The government payments, Mr. Dockter said, “aren’t even comparable anymore” to what he could make by working the land. He plans to devote some of his conservation acres to growing feed for his cows and some to grazing. He might also lease some land to neighbors.
For years, the problem with cropland was that there was too much of it, which kept food prices low to the benefit of consumers and the detriment of farmers.
Now, because of a growing global middle class as well as federal mandates to turn large amounts of corn into ethanol-based fuel, food prices are beginning to jump.
The consensus among farmers is clear: cultivating crops for biofuels beats conservation by a considerable payoff. Looks like the wildlife will lose to greed—and our collective refusal to find a sustainable solution to the fuel crisis.
- Using Food for Fuel Leaves Bad Taste in the Mouths of the Hungry
- “Clean Energy” Causing Mass Deforesting, Carbon Emissions
- Biofuels Are Starving Us
- Higher Fuel Costs Create Healthier Habits
- Ethanol Production is Spreading the Dead Zone