"CRP is killing our towns," Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch told Stucke. Critics of the program say that when farmers idle land, they no longer buy fuel or fertilizer or hire local help for the harvest. Partch argues the program stifles "the local economies by suppressing high-production agriculture in an area that boasts some of the best wheat-growing conditions in the world," the Palouse region, Stucke writes. Still, Judy Olson, state executive director of the federal Farm Service Agency, says the CRP has helped thousands of farmers hold onto their land during down years.
"In the past several years the high price of wheat and other crops has helped farmers fetch a handsome profit, dulling the conservation program’s allure as a safe financial bet," Stucke writes. Farmers who pull land out of the program before its contract expires must pay penalties, and in some cases might have to return the signing bonuses collected upon enrollment. While that is a business decision for many farmers, LaCrosse Mayor Larry "Butch" Burgess still wishes the local economy wasn't hurt. "Used to be around here that the town would get some sales tax money when farmers would spend a few million dollars on new combines," he told Stucke. "We miss that." (Read more)
There's no reason to think that this phenomenon is limited to eastern Washington. What do your local leaders think?