They Put the “Dies” In “Subsidies”
Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” traced back to farm subsidies
You know that massive “dead zone” that shows up every year in the Gulf of Mexico? The oxygen-starved, life-free patch of water about the size of, oh, Connecticut? That’s your tax dollars at work. The zone is caused largely by nitrogen-based fertilizers, which flow downriver from farms in a small set of counties in the Midwest — farms the Department of Agriculture subsidized to the tune of some $30 billion between 1997 and 2002. In contrast, in that period conservation programs in those same counties received … $75 million. Love those priorities. This info comes from a new study by the Environmental Working Group. “In the crudest sense, we’re paying people to pollute,” says an EWG ecologist. A multistate compact to shrink the dead zone to one-third its current size by 2015 has been ineffective so far, possibly because despite incentives, the program is voluntary. The hypoxic area is a major threat to Louisiana’s fishing industry, one of the world’s most productive.