Image credit: Environmental Working Group
From Lester Brown's excellent piece on losing soil to Jasmin's dirt on soil erosion, the topic of soil erosion and what it means for the future of our civilization is always an important one here on TreeHugger. Yet while some innovative farmers may be planting forest buffers to prevent runoff, a new video claims that soil erosion may be worse than even the depressing official estimates that are out there. Much worse. And it looks like we only have ourselves to blame.
Official Soil Erosion Figures Hide Deeper Problem
While official figures on soil erosion in Iowa showing 5.2 tons of soil loss per acre per year may not have been ideal, they were thought to be only slightly higher than the rate considered "sustainable" by experts. The Environmental Working Group's Losing Ground campaign, however, suggests that these figures are not showing the complete picture:
In some places in Iowa, recent storms have triggered soil losses that were 12 times greater than the federal government's average for the state, stripping up to 64 tons of soil per acre from the land, according to researchers using the new techniques. In contrast to the reassuring statewide averages, the researchers' data indicate that farmland in 440 Iowa townships encompassing more than 10 million acres eroded faster in 2007 than the "sustainable" rate. In 220 townships totaling 6 million acres, the rate of soil loss was twice the "sustainable" level.
Farm Subsidies Encourage Soil Erosion
This problem is being exacerbated—maybe even caused—by farm subsidies that incentivize ever greater production of corn and soy beans from every single acre of soil, say campaigners. While programs to encourage natural buffers and protection of stream catchment areas may be underfunded, the Government is channeling billions of dollars into production subsidies. According to the Environmental Working Group, between 1997 and 2009 conservation programs across the corn belt received a mere $7.0 billion, while $51.2 billion was allocated for income, production and insurance subsidies.
Could it be we have our priorities wrong?