More corporate welfare for public land livestock production

Obama’s Department of Agriculture has published a rule to extend more subsidies to public land ranchers.

EQIP Extended to Public Lands – National Cattleman’s Beef Association

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a final rule authorizing the use of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds for conservation efforts on public lands. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Public Lands Council (PLC), and other conservation and ranching groups had requested this language in comments submitted to USDA in March. 

Fencing is harmful to wildlife for many reasons © Brian Ertz 2009

Fencing is harmful to wildlife © Brian Ertz 2009

EQIP is a federal agricultural subsidy :

EQIP provides payments up to 75 percent of the incurred costs and income foregone of certain conservation (sic) practices and activities.

“Conservation practices” is a tricky term.  In practice, these federal dollars are often spent subsidizing the construction of agricultural developments like the materials and labor to build fences and to dig wells to pump water on private land.  The new rule expands the subsidy to provide federal cost-sharing for practices which include fences and water developments for livestock production on federal public lands.

Limit per individual or entity is not to exceed $300,000 in 6 year timeframes.

According to the USDA, from 1997 to 2008, over $100 million in EQIP dollars were distributed to subsidize livestock grazing in the country.

36 Responses to “More corporate welfare for public land livestock production”

  1. Tom Page Says:

    EQIP can be used for good things too – go look at what kind of projects are eligible. It all depends on the user. I could say the same thing about your caption regarding fences: not all fences have to be bad for wildlife – it depends on the design and the location. So to say that $100m goes to subsidize livestock production from this program is a bit of a stretch.

  2. Tilly Says:

    Tom,
    I sincerely hope you are right. Unfortunately, the only example I have personally encountered is on Washington state’s Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area, where they used EQIP funds to develop springs to facilitate free grazing in sagebrush steppe. (In the last stronghold of Washington sage grouse.)

  3. Brian Ertz Says:

    all fences are bad for wildlife.

  4. Tom Page Says:

    Brian –

    So you would prefer to have more animals killed on the highway and less genetic dispersion than provide benign fences that steer them to overpasses or underpasses? The interstates aren’t going away anytime soon.

  5. Ken Cole Says:

    This will be a disaster. Every spring, seep, and creek on arid public lands will be developed so that wildlife can’t benefit from it. This is in no way connected to conservation and needs to be stopped before it is ever implemented.

    As it is, nearly every place where there is a water development the BLM and Forest Service build some kind of small exclosure to protect the vegetation around a spring but they pipe all of the water directly from the source to a trough. The water is not allowed to provide any riparian area. The areas around the trough are beaten to dust and cow flop where cheatgrass then takes hold to invade the surrounding uplands.

    The cattlemen gripe about not having enough water at the same time they are destroying the riparian areas and drying up springs and seeps. These are really important areas that provide all kinds of benefits to birds, insects, amphibians, reptiles, wild ungulates and vegetation. They are being destroyed at a rapid pace but with this kind of subsidization they will disappear even faster.

  6. Ken Cole Says:

    Tom,

    I’m 100% sure that this money, if the BLM, Forest Service, and the Cattlemen’s Association have any control over it, will be used for industrialization of wildlands. Spring developments, fencing, and other things. Temporary fencing also has a funny way of turning into permanent fencing when people have forgotten about it.

  7. Brian Ertz Says:

    Tom,

    these monies are not going to be spent to divert wildlife from highways. more likely to divert wildlife from water-sources to facilitate heightened stocking rates for livestock.

    there’s no such thing as a “wildlife friendly fence”.

    “conservation” is a funny word that gets thrown around a lot. i anticipate in most instances that the monies will be spent to play ‘whack-a-mole’ with livestock impacts. i don’t anticipate this simply because i am a pessimist, it can be anticipated because that’s what’s being done now with these developments claimed to provide “conservation” benefit and it’s what’s been done for a very long time. kt or ken would be great people to have a conversation about that. they see more of these projects than even those in agency themselves.

    land managers will identify environmental degradation attributable to livestock. rather than reduce the stocking rates or seasons of use, overstocking being the root of what’s causing a given problem, land managers will prescribe more fencing and water developments on public lands to displace the problem – from riparian to uplands, from one species to 12 species. just another excuse for more of the same. the problem out there is too many stock on arid land.

    the really sad (& sick) part of this subsidy, is that the land management agencies are constantly complaining about the inadequacy of funds to monitor conditions on the ground, then claim they can’t justify reduction in stocking rates or season of use without said monitoring, but spend unholy amounts of money on livestock developments on public lands.

    so while our public lands continue to sustain abuse for lack of monitoring resources – Obama’s Ag Department dumps more federal dollars into building these guys’ little empires on our public lands and facilitating their ‘see no evil’ mentality. where’s the money for monitoring ?

    these guys are already eligible for the dollars on their private ground – one among a plethora of subsidies that artificially inflates the competitiveness of this land-use that spites the natural environment in which it exists. they shouldn’t be getting more of these dollars for public land projects.

  8. otto Says:

    Highway fences are not paid for by the department of ag and prohibit genetic disbursal by limiting the ability of wildlife to move freely. This study in Sweden, one of a small few to actually accumulate data, found that exclusion fencing, even with wildlife overpasses, “may have a negative impact on moose accessibility to resources, gene flow and recolonisation rates.” http://www.wildlifebiology.com/Volumes/2008+-+volume+14/1/706/En/

    Highway fencing is the responsibility of the State Departments of Transportation not the Federal Department of Agriculture. So this money is spent not on preventing roadkill rather spent to further privatize public lands through hundreds of miles of barbed wire fences.

    The water projects are even worse. Cattle are riparian animals who either decimate creeks or decimate the land surrounding a upland trough. By naturally needing to remain near the water source these cattle are destroying public lands with no equivalent public benefit.

    Once again its ranchers seeking socialist handouts to subsidize their uneconomical, non beef producing, and exclusionary practices. For a group that claims to be rugged individualist their hypocrisy is glaring.

  9. Tom Page Says:

    Brian-

    I did not mean to imply that EQIP funds would be used for Interstate fencing – I was simply responding to your comment that “all fences are bad for wildlife”.

    It’s been my observation that removable electric tape has very minimal (if any) impacts on wildlife, as does smooth wire with lots of open gates, so I’m going to disagree that there’s no such thing as wildlife friendly fencing, too.

    I agree that there are lots of bad fences out there, and I’ve removed some myself. I hope to remove a lot more in the coming years.

    Otto-

    My experience with highway fencing on I-70 in Colorado was that animal mortality was reduced. Also, elk wouldn’t disperse across the highway with or without the fence, so I can’t say that the fence had an additive negative impact on genetic dispersal – increased mortality (via collisions) definitely has an impact on genetic dispersal though.

  10. kim kaiser Says:

    if you believe in health “reform” you have not right ot question welfare ranching

  11. Brian Ertz Says:

    I guess my main point Tom, and this would apply to a lot of the conversations that we have, is that when it comes to government action we can pretend like a thing is good or bad by highlighting the exception, or we can look at the reality of it from how it’ll be implemented as a general rule.

    so many of these programs get characterized by the exception – and those of us dealing with the way the get implemented in the real world understand that the way the money is spent is entirely contrary to the way the programs are characterized by the government and the special interests that privately benefits at the cost to the public at large and wildlife.

    how should we deal with that ? would it be accurate/honest to spend 10% of my post space explaining that removable electric tape allegedly has very minimal impacts to wildlife when that removable electrical tape will constitute less than a fraction of 1% of the actual expenditures of the program ? and the lions share will be spent on destructive installations !

    this is the problem with such things – huge federal dollars go to trash our public lands and if there’s one rancher or little program that acts in good faith, he/she gets half the media coverage and the public is supposed to rest their support on that lie of proportion.

    it’s a matter of scale Tom, and I don’t think that you can disagree that if media outlets were to adequately characterize the issue in terms of scale – the waste and environmentally destructive government action would dominate and the anecdotal practices of benefit to wildlife would be relegated to the margins of an afterthought somewhere on the back-pages.

  12. Matt Says:

    I’ve been working indirectly with EQIP in Virginia for about 8 years now. It stands for Environmental Quality Incentive Program and it is just that: it pays farmers to implement practices that protect the environment, mainly water quality. I’ve never seen it misused for the things you seem to be worried about. However it does seem questionable that it can now be used on public lands.

    Yes it can be used for water development. What you are missing is that it can only be used for water development when livestock are excluded from a stream and riparian areas surrounding it. Yes it can be used for fences – to fence those cattle out of a stream. It also helps pay to restore natural vegetation between the fence and the stream. It is used for other purposes on other types of agricultural lands such as croplands.

    Maybe things are different with this program in the West, but it has actually done a lot of good here for the Chesapeake Bay and other declining water bodies.

  13. Demarcated Landscapes Says:

    Matt-

    Good to know that it is working out better on that side of the Mississippi.

    In Arizona, the EQIP $$ is used to “improve distribution”- i.e. distribute the degradation of livestock use in the uplands over wider areas of the allotment. The new waters don’t necessarily get livestock out of riparian areas- they just get them into areas that still have grass.

    In one example, on the Tonto National Forest, EQIP money is used for extensive range developments to mitigate the effects of drought (ha!) reductions by providing access (via new water developments) to previously unused portions of the allotments. Projects included developing seeps and springs, pumping water uphill to places previously dry places, and developing 16 enormous 10,000 gallon “pit tanks.” If memory serves, these were all approved using categorical exclusions-

    http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/partnerships/partnershipawards.html

  14. Matt Says:

    Wow, it does sound like we have more of a success with the program here. Like most issues discussed in this forum, I guess it all comes back to politics. While our livestock industry is actually larger than many western states, they don’t have the ears of politicians like in the West.

    Interestingly, improved distribution is one of the main goals here, but I’ve never seen it work out like that. We might pump water uphill with a solar or ram pump, but it usually feeds a little “ball” waterer – no spillage, no evaporation, no mud, no significant environmental degradation of the existing pasture. And in most cases it goes hand-in-hand with a rotational grazing project, which again is far less of an environmental evil than previous management.

    In the end, I suppose it isn’t the program but the people interpreting/implementing it…

  15. Ken Cole Says:

    This is a spring development on the western flank of the Ruby Mountains in Nevada on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. There is a small riparian exlosure where the water is piped from the source rather than the bottom of the spring to a trough that leaks water onto bare soils where it erodes into the destroyed riparian area below. The exclosure contians an old exclosure with willows but the pipe still collects all of the water at the source so the greater exclosure will not recover due to water deprivation. There is a great crop of cheatgrass though.

    I might point out that this is a typical spring development.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/BuffaloGuyG573Y6/SpringDevelopment?authkey=Gv1sRgCKftzLre46K8uwE#

  16. Debra K Says:

    Ken-at least the spring development in your pictures has a bird/wildlife escape ramp to allow small animals to get out of the trough. Most of the troughs or similar water developments I see have no bird or mammal escape ramps, which is a violation of the grazing permit. I have yet to have any agency respond when I complain about the lack of escape ramps, with photos documenting the problem.

    I have actually seen drowned magpies in one trough on state lands. Is this really how we want our tax dollars being used to fund these types of abominations ? Water developments and fencing to benefit private livestock are a waste of tax dollars, and harmful for wildlife and native plants.

  17. Larry Thorngren Says:

    Debra K
    I have also found drowned birds, such as meadow larks, in water troughs in the Lost River area of Idaho. Some of the troughs originally had ramps, but they had been destroyed by the cattle. I have also found deer and antelope skeletons hanging from fences on public lands, with a leg or foot caught between the barbed wire strands

  18. ProWolf in WY Says:

    Larry, I have seen antelope dead on a fence. Those can be such a death trap if they can’t get under them. I read it once that a three foot fence might as well be a twelve foot for one of them. I never have seen drowned birds though. It amazes me how grazing areas can be such a death trap for native species. Those kinds of pictures need to make it into news media.

  19. bob jackson Says:

    It sounds like Western lands ASCS and their technical advisor associates, NRCS are not following the intent of the program. In Iowa, like Matt’s Virginia experience, the EQUIP riparian program is a lot more conservation friendly. even with other CRP programs that capitulate to farmers haying needs during drought, the govt. doesn’t budge with riparian grazing or haying.

    Their always is the locally elected ASCS members that are usually exploitive in nature…who don’t want to appove funds for alternate water sources. I had to appeal to state level mediation to override my counties yo yo’s.

    It helps to read all 2000 pages of the govt. regs and supersedes on this Equip program if you want to fight em. And the govt. has to give you a copy of this program if you ask for it. There is nothing in there I see that allows the redistribution etc. you guys talk about. read it and nail them to the spicket.

    Also, Ken’s photo of the degradation around the water tanks is prevented here in Iowa by either rr tie platforms or crushed rock going out maybe 20 feet from the water tank. But more important yet, there is no overflow to muck up the area. This is because there is a float in the tank and a pipe going from in the tank back to the fenced riparian area.

    I think you could nail the good ole boy bastards if you read the regs. and tell how other states are following “conservation” minded practises. Remember the ones who approve the programs are elected ASCS county officials. you have the right to call them on the carpet. Ask for the right to speak at their next meeting. Show the evidence. The best evidence I had was pictures of the abuse on these farmers own lands.

    Put into a power point program for mediation (you can do this as a concerned citizen) and the state asst. head called for a recess after he asked if this really was film from my counties elected ASCS officials. They all came back after 15 minutes and let the embarrassing crap go on for only 5 more minutes before capitulating to following the regs.

    This opened the way for a lot of conservation measures by farmers in all the counties around. Yes, I won…I win all the battles…but it takes follow through and determination.

    Yes, Obama probably didn’t know the implications of what he was signing but the problem is not so much the program but how the local govt. has bent the rules for their own and friends use.

  20. Brian Ertz Says:

    It seems to me that if you’ve got a program that’s intended to provide conservation benefit but is vulnerable to do the opposite, and in fact it does subsidize environmentally destructive ends, then it’s not much of a consolation to say it’s intended to do good.

    The rule to expand the corporate welfare was pushed by the public land Livestock lobby, it’s their announcement that’s posted. If it was done in good faith, to ensure conservation benefit, why were provisions not provided in the language of the new rule that would prevent the abuse pointed out by Ken, DL, & others ? instead, USDA encorporated the Cattlen & Public Land Council’s (2 public land Livestock lobbying groups) comment. Both groups are among the most anti-environmental voices in the nation.

    Even if we were to say EQIP could be a good program – in say the East, this move just co-opted that, the crooks on public lands just captured a piece of that pie.

  21. mikepost Says:

    I don’t know of any cattle rancher that wants his cows drinking from a water source with dead animals in it. I have seen them drag carcasses away from ponds and streams and scold the missinformed who think they should take the board out of the tank because they imagine that it interferes with wildlife and stock from drinking. We use rock ramps in our tanks on the reserve.

  22. bob jackson Says:

    Any tanks, as shown in Ken’s pictures, would not be funded by the EQUIP program in Iowa. In fact no rancher I know of here would ever take the time to construct something so ricketty as pictured. Those pictured are eye sores even without environmental ramifications.

    The tanks funded in Iowa are concrete, and except for the drinking surface itself, are all underground. Thus the water is about 4-6″ above the ground, not 2 1/2 feet above as older style tanks were. From a cattlemens point of view here there is just too much chance for bruising and injuries from other livestock pushing animals into the sides of these old style tanks. The same goes for horses. In yellowstone anytime we used above ground tanks it was with a divider splitting the tank surface up. Otherwise dominant horses would control the whole area and ram other horses into the sides of tanks such as these.

    To Brian I reply if you consider any program suceptible to abuse as a bad program then just remember the equal rights to all races amendment…and how it was applied to those Blacks down South for far too long. Lots of money for schools was received from the federal govt. and were still White only.

    Everything I read in the EQUIP program was conservation freindly. It is just the application, with no regards to the environment, that western ranchers and their govt. counterparts are using…with support of the cattlemens assoc. to continue in the manner as before.

    I would turn the “game” on them and use their initiative to then enforce the intent of the program…just like the civil rights movement did to schooling down South. No, you don’t have that kind of suport but every instance where the govt. allows and funds something like Ken posted then you can attack individually.

    It is how I did it for my own land and it turned in to a change was state wide (the state didn’t want to lose any more mediations like this).

    Now cows as dysfunctional as those raised today are another matter. Even if the tanks were as pictured, functional families don’t mill around water holes as cattle do today. There is little fighting and panic by structured species.

    And as for cattle being low land riparian types, historically there were lots of functional family cattle herds way out in the Pampas. Having families means homes and the need for control of family members means isolation from others. Thus no loitering by families (or today’s tanks) around water holes by any grazers.

  23. Matt Says:

    To make those changes, seek out those elected offices on USDA county committees, soil and water conservation districts, etc. Perhaps there are too many foxes in the henhouses out west. In my experience, those positions are not hotly contested here – many are write-ins on the SWCD boards. Maybe it’s the same in western states??

  24. Debra K Says:

    Mikepost brings up an interesting point about cattlemen not wanting their stock to dring out of fouled water sources. Some of the water developments I’ve seen are so foul and horrible, absolutely fetid, I’ve wondered about the quality of the meat being produced by cattle that drink from this dank, polluted water.

    It’s yet another reason among many why I would never consider eating any beef that I didn’t know exactly where and how it was raised. I quit eating beef 2 decades ago, at the time for health reasons, but now my avoidance of it is primarily because of the environmental impacts associated with its production.

  25. bob jackson Says:

    Mat,

    The elected positions for NSCS are not of much concern to the public around here, but the ASCS is where all the money is approved for farmers grain subsidy payments. Thus, these guys wield a lot of power in the community. Equip is payed out by these guys also. Because they are mostly row crop and cow calf farmers they don’t like change…. especially change that lets them know with each EQUIP application it means they themselves are doing wrong environmentally with the way they farm.

    That is what I had to contend with. As long as I understood their motives and their need to maintain status in the community it was easy to attack them on both fronts. I let them know at my local meeting with them all this would end up in the states urban papers. I also told the state office at the next level (mediation session) meeting all those in ASCS who showed up to “help” mediate were now culpable because it reached the level it did ( the normal practise was the county guys moved it to state because the state boys would then intimidate farmers by bringing in a number of higher ups to water down any arguments …. and thus monopolize the meetings with the mediator. Plus with power point presentations I controlled the floor.

    I repeat this here because that is what any activist needs to know if they are going to take on abuses, such as happening out west, with programs such as this.

    Debra, want to switch to some of our bison meat? We ship and deliver all over the country. With all other domesticated animals (including other bison herds) and most hunted species having stress inherent in them you (because of social dysfunctionality) you won’t believe the difference until you try it. A fresh, clean taste only the natives could have experienced pre White Man.

  26. Larry Thorngren Says:

    Arizona F&G is requiring that all fences on their wildlife areas have a barbless wire 18 inches from the ground to accomodate pronghorns and small deer. A similar requirement on all forest service and BLM fences would save a lot of wildlife. Bighorn sheep climb over jack fences very easily and would benefit from a section of jack fence installed in all areas where they need to cross a barbed wire fence.

  27. mikepost Says:

    It is the domesticated sheep fence that is the pronghorn killer. Woven mat for the first 24″ and then two strands of barb. Because of their hesitancy, their rear hooves hit the top strand, slid down in between the two strands as they go over and then past the second strand. As they complete their leap their rear hooves bend the second strand up over the first and they are effectively trapped. they cannot escape from this. I have seen sheep fence in Colorado some years that had a dead pronghorn every 100 yards. Unfortunately sheep like to slide under fence as well so the obvious fix is not possible. I will skip the part where we argue about getting rid of all the sheep….

  28. Matt Says:

    Bob,

    Interesting difference in farm demographics. Farmers here in VA, as a whole, are far more progressive in changing to practices that impact the environment less than older practices. I work mainly with row crop farmers. In 8 years I have watched farming go from 90% conventional tillage (plow and disc) to over 95% continuous no-till. That’s hundreds of thousands of acres of land that went from soil erosion losses of several tons/acre/year to losses so small they cannot be accurately measured. Much of that conversion was initiated with EQIP funding. I have a hard time believing the misuse of those funds out West, knowing the excellent personnel I have worked with at NRCS here. But I don’t doubt it is true. As I understand it, that agency varies quite a bit from state to state.

    As to the excellent bison meat you mentioned, I agree 100%!

  29. Brian Ertz Says:

    i suspect the East & West are 2 entirely different ball-games.

    1st, there’s water back East ~ i.e. livestock production is more environmentally appropriate with water.

    2nd, the politics are different.

    3rd, it’s public land that we’re talking about with the EQIP funds with this action, not private.

    etc.

  30. Ben Otto Says:

    Matt,
    Sounds like great success in Virginia. I would imagine that changing from dollar disk till to no-till caused either reduced production or increased costs. Could you share some startegies y’all found to convince farmers to change their ways.

    Out here we can not even have an adult discussion about rangelands. Any mention of reducing herds or increasing costs results in cries of calamity and doom from ranchers who then bully agenciws or race to the state legislators for more protections.

  31. Ben Otto Says:

    Matt,
    Sounds like great success in Virginia. I would imagine that changing from dollar disk till to no-till caused either reduced production or increased costs. Could you share some startegies y’all found to convince farmers to change their ways.

    Out here we can not even have an adult discussion about rangelands. Any mention of reducing herds or increasing costs results in cries of calamity and doom from ranchers who then bully agencies or race to the state legislators for more protectionism.

  32. bob jackson Says:

    Matt,

  33. bob jackson Says:

    Matt,

    Conservation tillage is “in” here in the Mid West it is just the reparian EQUIP programs the farmers resist. They don’t mind giving money for CRP (HEL ground) because the row croppers think of hill farmers as not up to par status wise….and taking hills out of cropping means less corn and thus higher prices for each bushel of corn for them “flat landers”.

    The reason conservation of soils is in is on the hills is farmers HAVE TO be a part of NRCS conservation plans if they are to continue to get subsidies. Plus no banker will loan money unless the safety net of farmers having conservation plans. Plus more farming has gone the chemical route. Less tillage means more land can be rented for row cropping. Guys that were formerly limited to 1000 acres now can farm 5-10,000 acres. I have to say the farmers are not that environmentally conscious, they just talk it because it fits nicely with what they HAVE to do.

    Brian,

    I agree with point number two…the politics are different. Out West you have a lot more 19th century exploitive and extractive folks..whether it is hunters, ranchers or miners.

    I dealt with some of the worst, outfitters, for 30 years and the agressiveness is similar to what rangeland ranchers are. I attacked any aggression the outfitters put forth. It was the only way to deal with this kind of behavior. I’d say the same needs to be done with public lands ranchers. Hit them in all their Walter Mitty world wild west image is what I say to do.

    As part of Utah States Range Science behavioral initiative I went to a number of conferences where ranchers would get up and spout off. These guys are the easiest to neutralize. Of course they are no different than row croppers back here, however, who get up and say,” if it wasn’t for farmers there would be no food for the world”. I reply back,”and who made the tractor you use to plant and harvest this food? Without this tractor you make no food”. “who delivers the gas for your tractor?”.

    Ranchers and Govt. range managers out West are so easy to humble. I say nail them where it hurts. Attack what they stand for and they will run with their tails between their legs…just like all the outfitters and guides I caught poaching lowered their heads and cried when the gig was up.

    Point one; water doesn’t make it more livestock friendly back East. The damage is just harder to see.

    Point three; Its public lands we are talking about and there are lots and lots of different govt. programs. Funds are used for thinning trees, Public fire money is used to fight fires on private lands…it goes on and on. Equip is just another of many and this conservation program is being abused out West. What they are doing is not in the regs.

    I was talking of water tanks in my previous post. The procedures to do it environmentally “right” are the same West or East. As I see tanks as it is applied out West are like some back forty hill billy operation.

    The biggest abuse I see is more water being used and distributed so cows can overgraze still more public lands. It isn’t the EQUIP program, it is the public lands managers who allow overgrazing …or allow grazing for private profits to the exclusion of other sustainable public interests.

  34. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Folks are raising good points about geographic differences in ranchers.

    I might have spent too much time in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana seeing the results and dealing with ranchers with public land grazing permits. It could have warped me.

  35. Matt Says:

    Ben,

    It was actually farmers who got behind continuous no-till (I really mean never-till, not the conservation tillage styles found in the midwest that still till but leave surface residue) in VA. They were good at no-tilling corn and soybeans, and wanted to do wheat but it was impractical because of plant diseases. They convinced the plant breeders to help them out, and a few years later the university began releasing lines of wheat that were resistant to many of those diseases, enabling the seeding of no-till wheat that didn’t have to be sprayed with fungicides on a wine-grape-like schedule. It has been more profitable for them by far. EQIP and state cost-share dollars were used to help the “non-believers” and those who otherwise could not afford the new planting equipment. So it was actually really easy. Farmers were in front of this and it was actually the university folks and bureaucrats who had to catch up. That does not happen very often!

  36. Matt Says:

    Bob,

    You are right – the conservation tillage here is in the farmers’ best financial interest and they know it (now anyway). They are far from calling themselves environmentalists, but most consider themselves to be stewards of the land and their willingness to try new things has helped them and the environment. Brian brings up a good point – you can do things a lot more sustainably when rainfall is adequate. EQIP and other cost-share here is used in general to get farmers started on a new practice. Those payments don’t continue on and on, but the practices usually do because the farmers see the light.

    Also I have not seen that same stigma with EQIP here. I guess our farmers see that money as an opportunity to do something better, not admit they were doing something wrong before. The program has never been “sold” to them that way, so I guess they don’t have those same perceptions.

    I agree that livestock production is degrading anywhere it occurs, as is any type of human development. But as long as we have demand for meat, it will be grown. My personal opinion is that we (the U.S.) have the opportunity to do it in more sustainable ways here while excluding imported meats or other ag commodities that are not done this way. We just need to put the laws in place and begin making a change. More sustainable production on private, non-arid lands and getting herds off public lands would be a giant step in the right direction. Getting perfectly healthy livestock off antibiotics would be another!!


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