EWG’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. In the Midwest we pursue our mission by working to move agriculture in a more sustainable direction. Farmland dominates the landscape and watersheds in the Midwest. The way that land is used and managed has profound effects on our health through the water we drink and the food we eat.
Farming can actually make water cleaner and the environment healthier. Farms doing exactly that are scattered across the Midwest. We bring a unique combination of remote-sensing, big data and landscape analysis to bear to build pressure to change policy to heal the damage done by poor farming practices and to build excitement about how much healthier the environment could be through often simple changes in the way we farm.
A news investigation last week reaffirmed that nitrate levels in the Des Moines River watershed exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water limit, posing a threat to infants, pregnant women and others for whom excessive nitrate can be a health hazard.
Keeping water clean and safe enough to drink is a tough job, especially when there are forces that sabotage this vital public health goal.
The farm subsidy lobby has been proclaiming that growers are suffering through a “farm crisis” as a result of falling commodity prices. A new EWG analysis released today, however, shows that the large farm businesses that receive the most subsidies are not doing as poorly as the industry claims, especially compared to other American families.
We need a consistent approach to agricultural conservation.Driving around central Iowa on a crop survey this spring, EWG analysts came across a far-too-common scene: adjacent fields reflecting disparate responses to the problem of agricultural runoff. EWG’s report, “Fooling Ourselves,” showed that voluntary programs to encourage planting of protective vegetation along vulnerable waterways were not achieving lasting results.
If you care about the environment, human health or helping small growers, you should support reform of the federal crop insurance program.Read More
Pollution in Minnesota’s drinking water has gotten worse in recent years, but no one wants to call out the industry responsible. It’s been the primary source of water pollution for decades, making water in some areas of the country dangerous to drink and costing local taxpayers millions of dollars to clean it up.
Recently, spring weather in upper Midwest has been warmer and dryer, leading farmers in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota to plant corn in early April. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress Report, since 2013 there's been a big rise in corn planted by mid-April, the earliest farmers in the region can plant and be eligible for federally subsidized crop insurance.
The European Union just banned two agricultural weed killers linked to infertility, reproductive problems and fetal development – the first-ever EU ban on endocrine-disrupting pesticides. That’s good news for Europeans. But as in Europe, many endocrine-disrupting weed killers remain widely used on American crops, and from farm fields make their way into drinking water and food.
Crop insurance hikes up the cost of cropland -- bad news for small farmers who own their own land and growers, large and small, who rent acreage from landlords.
Federal crop insurance encourages growers to plant crops on land that is vulnerable to soil erosion and discourages landowners from adopting good conservation practices.Read More
We’re fooling ourselves if we think that voluntary conservation efforts are going to solve the Corn Belt’s dirty water problems.
This week, President Obama released a 2017 fiscal year budget proposal that would save taxpayers more than $18 billion and better protect America’s land and water.
It’s a complete misnomer even to call the federal crop insurance program “insurance.” It works nothing like the private insurance market because taxpayers pay about 60 percent of the premiums, all the costs of administering the program and a large share of the claims payouts. Moreover, what crop insurance deems a “loss” bears little resemblance to any actual financial losses a farm family experiences. The cost to growers is so low that over time most can expect to collect far more in payouts than they pay in premiums. In other words, most farmers make money by just by buying a crop insurance policy.Read More
Drinking water, lakes and rivers in Iowa and across the Corn Belt are in serious trouble because of polluted farm runoff. To tackle the problem, for decades we’ve taken the approach favored by agricultural interests – making federal tax dollars available for conservation practices that curb runoff, encouraging farmers to adopt those practices, then hoping enough of them volunteer to do the right thing.
As in past years, EWG asked its staff of scientists, policy analysts and governmental and communications specialists to vote on what they considered the 10 most important stories of 2015 in two categories: stories that relate specifically to agriculture and those that involve general environmental issues. The rest of the agriculture list is below. To see the staff’s ranking of general environmental stories, got to EWG’s Enviroblog.
Greed, at least when it comes to the cotton industry and its lobbyists, isn’t taking a break this holiday season. Cotton farmers cut a sweet deal in the 2014 farm bill. In return for their very own income support program – the Stacked Income Protection Plan, or STAX – the growers agreed they wouldn’t dip into two other federal assistance programs ginned up to stabilize the incomes of growers of corn, wheat and other favored crops.
The cost to taxpayers of providing crop insurance to farmers has more than tripled since 2001, rising from an average of about $3 billion a year in 2001-2003 to more than $10 billion a year in 2012-2014. The increase is largely the result of sharp jumps in the cost of subsidizing both farmers’ premiums and the companies that sell crop insurance.Read More
The congressional budget deal signed by President Obama in early November includes a cost-saving measure that trims the profits taxpayers guarantee the crop insurance industry. The guaranteed rate of return of these companies would drop from 14.5 percent to 8.9 percent, saving $3 billion over the next 10 years.Read More
The federal crop insurance program has come under attack for its increasing cost, environmental impacts and secrecy. But the farm lobby, the crop insurance industry and their political patrons maintain that despite its flaws, crop insurance is better, cheaper and less likely to lead to environmental harm than disaster programs.