Having farmed and run cattle for more than 15 years and participated in the Conservation Reserve Program for 10 years, I found "Protected Land Goes Back to Work as Crop Prices Soar" [April 28-May 5] misleading.
Although some lands put into reserve were fragile, the majority of those I knew about were there because as a nation, we were producing so much that the price was too low to be profitable. As prices on wheat, corn, and other grains move higher, the farmer can better afford to take the risk of planting and cultivating a crop. My observation is that a lot of good farmland is not being cultivated because it's easier to get a government check than to face the adversities of nature and the marketplace.
Land moving from the conservation Reserve Program to production is probably accurate. We are in a Catch-22 situation. Ethanol production could reduce dependency on oil. Yet the demand for corn means more acres planted, and corn for ethanol means less corn for food. We are already seeing a spike in food prices that will continue. What has been lost is the fact that high-input farming—the use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides—has saved thousands of acres that could go into the conservation program and into habitat. The infatuation with organic farming, if it is on a large scale, will only increase the need to plant more acres. What is undeniable is yields from organic production are lower than high-input farming. Where would the additional acres come from? Conservation acres and habitat. Farmers employing high-input-farming practices have done more for land conservation than any other conservation program.
In the future, if land is taken out of the CRP to grow switch grass for cellulosic ethanol feedstock, then the farmer could increase his per-acre profit while increasing the number of farm jobs. The biofuel produced from the switch grass then could displace fossil petroleum fuel, while keeping all the profits from biofuel production in the United States. All of this is in addition to reduction of the expense to the government of supporting the crp. How can a process that reduces governmental costs, recycles carbon dioxide, and increases domestic jobs be bad for us?
Honeoye Falls, N.Y.