The strangest part of May 1 guest column “Encourage farmers to plant cover crops” is how normal it sounds. It’s yet another ask of taxpayers to fund the dairy industry, following decades of public subsidies and regulatory immunities. Now we’re asked to fund its cover crops to lessen the flow of manure and other pollutants into Wisconsin’s waterways.
Imagine other industries threatening to pollute our natural resources unless we pay them not to. That begins to sound like a protection racket. Dairy should cover its own pollution abatement and other externalized costs and recapture them with higher prices. That’s how the market is supposed to work. But that would mean a quick end to an industry propped up by taxpayers and the absence of environmental accountability.
Wisconsin farmers are important, need help and deserve subsidies, but not to keep this dinosaur industry on life support. Wisconsin agriculture policies should promote practices that protect our soil and waters from toxic runoff, and hold producers responsible for the costs. Subsidies should help farmers transition to growing food that’s healthy and sustainable for people and the planet.
Charlie Talbert, Monona