Farming is often seen as in conflict with wildlife, but it needn’t be. The Wild Farm Alliance is a grassroots group that’s trying to chart a new direction. They don’t just talk about how agriculture can coexist with cougars and wolves, though. It’s also about the little guys — the birds and rodents that live in the wild margins between fields.

That’s why the USDA’s proposed Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (a national version of the California program of the same name, which came about after last year’s E. coli outbreak) has them riled, and rightly so.

According to WFA, this is an "effort on the part of large retailers to reduce their risk through this marketing agreement, and their privately hired food safety inspectors have resulted in cascading environmental harm that kills wildlife and destroys habitat."

Twenty years of conservation work has already been undone in one region of California by that state’s rule. What will happen to wildlife on a national level if this comes to pass?

Maddeningly, research shows that the rule is probably unnecessary:

Despite research documenting that habitat filters harmful E. coli pathogens, many growers are required by their buyers to remove grasses, hedgerows and riparian habitat that protect water quality and provide for pollinators and beneficial predators. In the Monterey Bay region of California, the Natural Resource Conservation Service estimates that twenty years of conservation work has already been undone. Should the USDA adopt a federal Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, an undue burden will be placed on local farmers who rely on nature, and a cycle of environmental devastation will be duplicated on farmland nationwide.

If, like me, this strikes you as an abundantly bad idea, then review the letter WFA sent to the USDA encouraging them to consider alternatives to this rule — alternatives that will protect consumers and wildlife.