MONTGOMERY, Alabama . . . Putting millions of acres of idle cropland back into farm production makes perfect sense as American agriculture works to meet rapidly growing world food demand, says Commissioner John McMillan.
“Thanks to the leadership of Alabama’s two new members in the U.S. House – Martha Roby and Terry Sewell – we have common sense legislation that will help our farmers meet a rapidly growing demand for food and fiber,” McMillan said.
He is referring to HR3454, entitled “Preserving Marginal 5 Lands and Protecting Farming Act of 2011,” recently introduced by Roby (R-AL-2) and Sewell (D-AL-7), both members of the House Agriculture Committee.
“Federal agriculture policy under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has seen its better days,” McMillan explained. “We must adjust to an era of growing demand for American agricultural commodities by releasing croplands from restrictions established in 1985, which are outmoded and counter-productive.”
Congress established CRP in 1985 to promote conservation on highly eroded lands or other environmentally sensitive land by providing payments to landowners who convert it to grass or timber. Some 25 million acres are authorized for CRP in a given year.
“Somewhere along the way, the law’s intent went awry and requirements for program eligibility loosened to allow payments for conservation on some high quality cropland,” McMillan added. “It’s bad policy for the government to encourage landowners to remove fertile soil from production.”
McMillan noted that economic expansion in India and China is leading to historic growth in the middle class such that by the year 2050 numbers of middle income people in the world will grow to three billion from the current one billion.
“Based on this statistic alone economists tell us that world food demand will double as people are able to afford purchases of meat and poultry that once were unaffordable,” McMillan added.