Yesterday I attended a picnic on a farm with Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) acreage. This is a program lauded by conservationists to protect riparian areas.
If you take land out of production around riparian areas--swamps, rivers, ponds--the government pays an annual per acre amount. Most of these contracts have a termination point, but many are in perpetuity. In our area, the per-acre payment is around $100-$125 per acre per year. That's more than double the annual rent for pasture. Many farmers actually earn more per acre this way--we call it farming the government--than they do farming.
Not only does the government (taxpayers) pick up the tab for the alleged lost production, the program also pays for alternative water sources. Interestingly, the program NEVER pays for a pond, which is by far and away the most multi-benefit option on the landscape.
This farmer went into the program several years ago and these abandoned areas, known as buffer strips, are now growing up in brambles and invasive species like multi-flora rose and autumn olive (both considered noxious invasives in our county, which has paid for herbicides to spray them in years past). The CREP contract prohibits him from mowing them during the growing season in order to protect a certain species of bird.
This bird, of course, will take all the berries with seeds from these briars and spread them all over his usable pasture. But guess what? HE CAN NUKE THEM WITH HERBICIDE! Yes, the little birds, the water; it can all be doused with herbicides but he can't go in there with a tractor and mower to control the weeds.
The farm bill is being hotly debated right now. When you hear environmentalists decrying "they're cutting conservation monies!" this is exactly the kind of program that's being cut. Pardon me if I respond "ho-hum." Only a government conservationist could design a program to protect riparian areas that encourages the proliferation of noxious weeds and blesses herbicides. You can't make this stuff up, folks. If this kind of program were developed for suburbanites, they'd all become libertarians.
I don't have time to get my pants in a wad about these stupid programs. I'm too busy trying to figure out how to pay my taxes so they can be thrown toward ignorant programs like this. Sheesh.
Can you think of any sincerely-created government programs that do more harm than good?