My Take: Better Cornservation Policy
For a long long time Iowa has had individual, mostly “small scale” type corn farmers. The only difference NOW (or somewhat recently) is that they’re contracted out to larger corporations to sell their crops, giving the impression of agribusiness and “Big Agriculture.” Farmers, as business owners first and community members second are forced to act in their best interest economically— for their land, and for themselves.
As we’ve seen in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4— current policies (local and federal) usually make it more profitable for farmers to plant heavily subsidized crops (like corn). Using the usual mechanized production methods, these require a lot of inorganic fertilizer. Then, the fertilizer degrades the surrounding water and land. Basically, the land and water are messed up; people have to deal with the health effects of dirty water and then pay for treatment facilities in taxes; and the food/biofuel industry profits off of all of it.
It’s important to note that the water quality problem in Iowa and the Mississippi Water Basin is because of a lot of different things, and it can’t be “solved” by any one “fix.” But, — we can see that a huge contributor is inorganic fertilizer from farms.
We know that Iowa isn’t alone in some of the the same types of water quality issue. By assessing our agricultural subsidies, their goals, and their effects, leaps and bounds of progress can be made! This re-evaluation of our farm-system to focus on what WE want from it (food, a healthy ecosystem, etc.), gives us the opportunity to point our legislation in that direction.
Lobbying & Corporate Interest
Unfortunately, like all political affairs— industry lobbying plays a huge role in agricultural laws like the Farm Bill (learn more on the Farm Bill in Part 4). To mitigate this, we can better-select for agricultural committee representatives to make sure they’re educated in lots of things— like the environment, public health, industry, and economics. We also can advocate to give lobbying/corporate interest the boot. This is, big ol’ issue to tackle, but a systematic fix would be ideal.
We can keep drinking water and agricultural land as a long term resources, with built-up conservation policy! From a wide lens, it make sense that conservation-based policies replace policies based on helping agribuisness. New laws should include more funding for proven, research-based and long-term, effective methods (and their implementation)— all with a lens for longevity.
Important Intercornnected Implications
It’s very important that we don’t think of the problem in Iowa’s cornfields as an isolated incident. This issue involves people working in an industry (farming) using unsustainable practices because it’s encouraged. The environmental impacts affect the local people. The problem is brought on because the government, in cooperation with industry encourages these unsustainable practices. We need to ask… Who’s winning?
Be sure to go back and read the rest of the Agriculture Policy Series: Part 1— The Raw History of Corn and Conservation Agriculture Policy in Iowa, Part 2—What do Iowan Environmentalists Say about Corn Policy?, Part 3— What & Who are Cornucopian Stakeholders in Iowa’s Cornfields?, and Part 4—Iowa’s Corn Policy-so-Far!
I do not, in fact, have a mind that inherently knows information (weird, huh?!)
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