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A program that pays farmers not to farm isn't saving the planet

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President Joe Biden wants to combat climate change by paying more farmers not to farm. But he’s already finding it’s hard to make that work.

His Agriculture Department is far behind its goal for enrolling new land in one program that has that goal, with participation being the lowest it's been in more than three decades.

Even though the USDA this summer more than doubled key incentive payments for the program that encourages farmers and ranchers to leave land idle, high commodity prices are keeping it more worthwhile for growers to raise crops.

On top of that, the plan, known as the Conservation Reserve Program, takes land out of production for only 10 to 15 years so those acres could release carbon into the atmosphere if the land is planted again and thus cancel out its environmental benefit.

The slow pace of enrollment and the temporary nature of the program raise questions about whether it will ever contribute significantly to efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It also shows how difficult it is for government programs to voluntarily draw in the farm industry to combat pollution.

“I guess my bottom line is, it's not a great climate solution,” said agriculture and environment consultant Ferd Hoefner, who was the founding policy director for the nonprofit National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which oversees the conservation program, acknowledges that participation this year has been lower than hoped for, but he is still optimistic that the additional money the administration is providing will spur more........

© Politico

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