Avoiding a 21st-Century Dust Bowl
commondreams.org — Mother Nature found a cruel way to demonstrate the difference between political rhetoric and reality when this summer's record-breaking drought coincided with the writing of a new U.S. Farm Bill. The House Agriculture Committee's draft 2012 Farm Bill will scrap costly farm subsidies in favor of a federal crop insurance expansion. The change will supposedly build a safety net for farmers in bad years while benefiting taxpayers by reducing federal agriculture expenditures. The reality is entirely different. Right now, one-half of U.S. counties have been declared federal disaster areas due to drought. More than 80 percent of corn and soybean crops are in drought-affected areas. Crop losses are likely to be catastrophic — economists are predicting crop insurance payouts could top $40 billion. So much for saving money. This year's drought illustrates why the latest Farm Bill won't meet current or future challenges.