Regardless of the final form that the 2002 Farm Bill takes, its legislation could have a noticeably green environmental tone. If Congress shows more interest in developing environmental-based farm supports as “green payments,” it will be a definite plus for no-tilling.
If lawmakers respond to constituents’ environmental concerns, tougher environmental conditions could be placed on future farm support payments. “The question is whether agriculture is prepared to go green,” says Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University ag economist. “It’s an issue, it’s real and it’s coming.”
Purdue University ag economist Otto Doering says farmers could face greater pressure to implement additional environmental controls or risk the loss of federal dollars. Such a congressional move would benefit no-tillers who are already among the best stewards of the land.
“We have groups out there who will work very hard to make the next Farm Bill very green,” says Doering. “These are not just activist environmental groups and they even include old-time traditional conservation groups, especially groups like soil conservation groups.”
To address agriculture’s negative concerns such as pollution, Congress could expand current environmental programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, wetlands preservation, offer incentives for no-tilling more acres, pay incentives for sequestering carbon with no-till or adopting other measures.
“If we get green payments, they’re most likely to be in the form of additional funds for good conservation activities by farmers, above and beyond income transfer payments,” says Doering. Since anything is possible in the political arena…