More farmers than expected applied to put their land in a government program that pays the farmers not to plant crops and not all of the acres could be accommodated, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.
The USDA accepted 3.9 million new acres into the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, in the latest sign-up period and turned away 600,000 acres, reports WSJ.
The USDA is anxious to enroll new acres in the program that is aimed at protecting environmentally sensitive land because on Sept. 30 the contracts that keep about 6.5 million acres of potential farm land idle will expire. Contracts take land out of production, thus conserving soil, for either 10 or 15 years.
About 30 million acres are now idled under the program, but the 6.5-million-acre exodus will be the largest ever. The USDA spends about $1.8 billion a year on the program, paying “rent” to land owners.
“By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams,” according to the USDA. “Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.”What we really have here is a case of poorly defined property rights. If lakes, rivers. ponds and streams were privately owned, it is unlikely that the owners would allow runoff on to their properties, unless they were properly compensated.
But further, amazingly, a lot of the USDA payout appears to be going to pay farmers not to plant crops on land that they aren't likely to plant anyway:
A guaranteed return on land is appealing to farmers, especially if the land isn’t well suited for planting crops, said Todd Davis, a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
That this type of stuff goes on, without major outrage, shows you how far away the country is from being a free market-private property country. Source EPJ