Forty Years after NEPA's Enactment, It Is Time for a Comprehensive Farm Bill Environmental Impact Statement
28 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2015
Date Written: 2010
There are winners and losers in the modern American farm economy. This reality is in no small part due to U.S. farm policies enacted through generations of omnibus legislation known as Farm Bills. Winners include industrial agricultural giants, such as Cargill, that reap record profits on the strength of government-subsidized cheap inputs, and incorporated holders of tens of thousands of acres that achieve vast economies of scale with GPSequipped tractors and monocultures of commodity crops. The losers, familiar from press reports, are the individual farmers and workers behind the rapid contraction in the number of U.S. farms — a drop of over 85,000 from 1997 to 2002 — and the increase in average acreage, as well as victims of systemic barriers to family farm, sustainable, and organic operations. These outcomes are commonly attributed to U.S. farm policy’s preference for monoculture production on huge acreages, which can have the unfortunate result of destabilizing rural communities. Also among the losers are the industries and individuals that experience the negative environmental impacts of U.S. farm policy, including diminished water and soil quality, decreased biodiversity, dwindling freshwater resources, and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This article addresses these damages and the failure of federal agencies to observe a law that might provide some measure of transparency, level-headed comparative analysis, and perhaps even mitigation: the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).
Keywords: NEPA, national environmental policy act, agriculture, energy, ethanol, subsidies, environmental impact assessment
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