Agriculture
12:00 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Environmental group says drought losses avoidable

Farmer and rancher Gabe Brown in North Dakota cups a spade of his healthy soil.
Credit Credit Chad Sawyer/The SAWYER Agency (Courtesy of NRDC)

Farmers across the country received more than $17 billion in federal crop insurance payouts after last year’s drought. A report released on Tuesday by an environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council says farmers could have greatly reduced losses if they had been working to improve soil health. The NRDC suggests that planting certain grasses and legumes, and implementing a set of soil conservation practices, could nearly drought-proof fields. That would save farmers a lot of headache and taxpayers a lot of money   

Many farmers, though, aren’t exactly sold on the report’s findings. Doug Wilson is a farmer in Livingston County, Illinois, which had the highest crop insurance payout in the nation. He says it would have been hard for those practices to fend off last year’s extreme heat and dryness.  He paraphrased former President Dwight Eisenhower when reacting to the report.

“It’s a lot easier to farm with a pencil from a thousand miles away than it is to actually have your hand on the plow.”

The study is available on-line: Soil MattersHow the Federal Crop Insurance Program should be reformed.