Letters to the Editor (Week of July 18, 2007)

Farm bill holds key to algae solution

The death of three dogs after contact with Marion Reservoir water (July 11 issue) may be linked to an algae bloom after all of the evidence is examined.

But the event once again reminds us the problem of water quality still exists with siltation and nitrogen/phosphorus loading.

This season?s heavier than usual rainfall in the watersheds that feed runoff water to Marion Reservoir has likely carried silt laden with fertilizer residues in even larger amounts than in normal rainfall years.

For the past two years many grassroots groups have pushed for reform in the writing of the 2007 farm bill to move payments to farmers from production-based commodity subsidies to conservation programs that reward farmers for conserving soil and using practices that keep fertilizers and chemicals on the fields rather than in the lakes and streams.

The Congress seems headed toward a continuation of the commodity subsidies programs of the past five years that have concentrated 80 percent of the payments into the 10 percent largest farming units.

In the ?markup? of the 2007 farm bill the Conservation Security Program has almost been completely gutted of funding. CSP was in the 2002 Farm Bill, though never adequately funded, would reward farmers proportionally for the adoption of best management practices (BMPs) to conserve soil and mitigate the environmental damage from runoff.

BMPs include but are not limited to: planting and maintaining filter strips, fencing off creek banks, adopting no-till farming techniques, tree planting, organic farming and grassland establishment.

I believe an approach like CSP in the watersheds feeding Marion Reservoir is a way we can have real progress in dealing with the problem of siltation and degraded water quality.

The adoption of BMPs will not result in overnight success but may take 10 or 20 years to show tangible results. The support to farmers to adopt the practices will not be cheap and, because it ultimately will benefit all who use the lake and water, the cost should be borne by tax dollars.

In the past 10 years nearly $80 million has come to Marion County via farm programs. We do not need more money but rather a redirection of the funds we have had.

Powerful interest groups representing the big four commodities (cotton, rice, corn and soybeans) have lobbied hard to keep the subsidies in place in the 2007 farm bill. Reading Congressman Moran?s defense of the 2007 farm bill, as proposed, in last week?s Free Press would indicate money and influence well spent.

It is late but maybe not too late to call or write Congress?man Moran, Sen. Roberts and Sen. Brownback and appeal to them to take another look at providing full funding to CSP to better serve the rural communities of Kansas they were elected to represent.

Harry E. Bennett



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