Prairie Rivers Network has a new neighbor, Congressman Rodney Davis of the 13th District. He is occupying the office of retired Congressman Tim Johnson on Fox Drive in Champaign. So it was an easy stroll to meet with him recently about our priorities for the federal Farm Bill.
During the meeting, we requested that Congressman Davis support linking conservation compliance to federal crop insurance subsidies. Conservation compliance is an existing Farm Bill provision that requires farmers to reduce erosion and preserve wetlands. Farmers are subject to conservation compliance if they receive certain subsidies, but crop insurance is not one of them.
The 2013 Farm Bill is our chance to fix this lost opportunity to improve the health of our rivers. American taxpayers spend over $7 billion each year on crop insurance subsidies. At the same time, agriculture is a leading cause of water pollution across the nation and in Illinois. Conservation compliance is a government success story proven to reduce water pollution and habitat destruction. Therefore, the public will benefit if conservation compliance is linked to federal crop insurance subsidies.
Congressman Davis was attentive during our meeting, but it is unclear whether he will vote our way. Unfortunately, the agricultural and conservation groups are not all in agreement on this topic. For example, while the National Farmers Union has come out in support of linkage, the highly influential American Farm Bureau Federation has not.
Congress should be taking up the Farm Bill later this spring. Prairie Rivers Network will continue to do outreach, but it’s important for legislators to hear from their constituents on this important opportunity. Please consider writing a Letter to the Editor or contacting your Representative and Senators Durbin and Kirk with the simple message:
“I am a constituent and I am calling to ask the Senator/Congresswoman to support linking conservation compliance to federal crop insurance subsidies in the next Farm Bill.”
RELATED NEWS: Congressman Davis has just signed on as a co-sponsor of the Protect Our Prairies Act! This is great news because the bill reduces incentives to convert prairies to row crops. Given that Illinois has lost over 99% of its original prairie habitat, we need to protect what’s left. Thanks, Congressman Davis! But we still want you to support linking conservation compliance to crop insurance subsidies!