Corn, Carbon and Conservation: Rethinking U.S. Agricultural Policy in a Changing Global Environment
17 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 593 (2010)
67 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2010 Last revised: 11 May 2020
'Corn, Carbon, and Conservation: Rethinking U.S. Agricultural Policy in a Changing Global Environment', is the first law review article to explore the complex relationship between U.S. agricultural policy, as reflected in the 2008 “Farm Bill,” and the current climate change and energy crises. In recent years, the public has renewed its interest in ensuring that the food it eats is healthy and is grown in ways that are environmentally and economically sustainable. The immense popularity of books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the widespread “locavore” movement, First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House lawn vegetable garden, concerns over genetically modified crops, rising food prices, growing concerns over the government’s misguided policy to promote corn ethanol, and the climate change crisis have refocused the public’s attention on the nation’s agricultural policies and their impact on human health and the environment and a sustainable energy future.
This Article explores a range of issues related to both the regulatory and incentive-based federal programs that affect the crops we grow, the manner in which they are grown, and the human and environmental impacts of such programs. One of the most promising means of accomplishing the goal of transforming our agricultural system into one that is environmentally and economically sustainable is to combine existing commodity subsidy programs with existing conservation subsidy programs into one subsidy program, which compensates farmers of a wide variety of crops for conserving a range of critical ecosystem services. Such an approach could result in a shift from an agricultural system in which croplands are in essence industrial wastelands with little or no ecological value and which are used primarily to produce industrial feedstocks, to a more sustainable system in which agricultural lands are healthy, sustainable systems providing a number of critical ecosystem services that benefit the public and serving as a source of healthful food.
Keywords: sustainability, agriculture, environment
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