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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

Some SD farmers unhappy with industrial ag getting conservation funds

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Friday, December 8, 2023   

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.

However, Johnson pointed out that including industrial agriculture in conservation funding leaves less money for smaller producers who carry out non-mechanical practices.

"I'm doing a nutrient management program, making sure that I'm not over-applying or under-applying -- using exactly what crops need," he said.

Johnson said that makes the soil on his land healthier, making it easier to absorb water and reduce any harmful runoff. He was one of many farmers who recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss these issues with members of Congress.


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