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Some SD Farmers Unhappy With Industrial Ag Getting Conservation Funds

By Mike Moen

Agriculture accounts for more than 10% of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. Advocates for small farms in South Dakota hope the next Farm Bill curbs spending for industrial operations linked to those emissions.

Like many sectors, "ag" is under pressure to reduce its carbon footprint. Congress recently punted reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which maps out spending for many farm and food-aid programs - to 2024.

Aaron Johnson, an organic producer south of Madison, hopes when lawmakers ramp up the debate, they take a closer look at conservation funding and where the money has been flowing.

"Nationwide," he said, "I see some abuse with the EQIP program and these biodigesters, that are just not functional unless they are heavily subsidized, by taxpayers and by the Farm Bill."

Johnson was referring to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which funds biodigesters. They capture methane from manure at factory farms, converting it to energy sources. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, it's the most expensive program practice and does more harm than good. But large operators contend they're responding to the demand for safely grown meat, and are always working to modernize environmental practices.

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