Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Farmers and Conservationists in the News

As the New York Times reports today, an interesting collaboration between farmers and conservationists has emerged in areas where the prospect of pavement has encouraged the environmentally minded to turn to other land stewards for help. These developments, as the article mentions, dovetail nicely with recent turn to organic production methods and other on-the-farm ways of ameliorating the environmental impacts of production and niche agriculture.

In corn belt, however, I wonder if the same sort of collaboration will continue to exist. The voluntary efforts at conservation become much less appealing when environmentally harmful production methods are profitable. After all, the organic turn is due in large part to the price consumers are willing to pay for such products. In the corn belt, organic farming is on the rise. But the ethanol boom is coming. With futures prices in the $3+ range, as far out as December '09, one must question the prospects of environmentally minded collaboration.

The photo is germane to the issue. Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) migrate through Nebraska, specifically the Platte Valley. And the Platte Valley is an area of intense agricultural production of the irrigated sort. Water supply and quality issues abound and the question of habitat maintenance for this and many other species looms large. Energy agriculture, given the current state of grain-based ethanol production, may diminish to some extent the collaborative potential for agriculturalists and conservationists.


Blogger Paul Hirsch said...

The NYT article linked to describes an interesting cooperative program between farmers in the Skagit Valley of Washington State and The Nature Conservancy. A more far-reaching cooperative effort in Washington is at the heart of the recently enacted Columbia River Water Management Program. An outgrowth the work of the Columbia River Task Force, this legislation was a compromise between Republican legislators representing farming interests east of the Cascades and Democrats mainly representing environmentalists in the west of the state. The farmers wanted more water storage during spring runoff (referred to as "new water") , the environmentalists wanted more instream flow for fish and wildlife. The breakthrough occurred when the Republicans on the Task Force proposed one third of all new water would go to augment instream flows, while two thirds would be used for agriculture. (RCW 90.90.020)
The WA Dept. of Ecology is now investigating possible storage sites (i.e. dam sites.)

12/31/2006 5:11 PM  

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