Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 07, 2004

`Green payments' for our farmers would help bay

Reporter Tom Pelton's article on the excessive nutrients plaguing the Chesapeake Bay ("Environmental group proposes tax on meat, dairy to aid in bay cleanup," July 29) raises important questions about who should pay for cleaning up farm runoff to our coastal waterways. And while a tax on food may not be politically feasible, one promising approach is rewarding farmers for good environmental stewardship.

Both farmers and the public support incentives for farmers to keep the environment clean. A 2001 poll by American Farmland Trust found that more than three-quarters of Americans support public aid to farmers, but nearly 85 percent believe that aid should be contingent on applying conservation practices on their land.

Existing federal conservation initiatives such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the newly established Conservation Security Program could provide significant conservation benefits on privately-owned farmland, but only if these programs are fully funded and implemented.

We also need new tools, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's pilot program in Pennsylvania of risk management insurance to protect farmers against loss when adopting conservation practices.

In the long run, "green payments" and other programs that provide public funds for conservation on private lands must become the centerpiece of U.S. farm policy -- not just a supplement.

By finding the right mix of incentives, we can achieve conservation goals without negatively impacting farmers' bottom lines. And everyone will benefit if we can clean up the bay while maintaining our local agriculture.

Ralph Grossi

Washington

The writer is president of the American Farmland Trust.

Free-spending GOP put us on wrong path

The White House is projecting that this year's federal budget deficit will exceed $445 billion ("Economy slows as spending falters," July 31). In four years, we've gone from having a surplus to having one of the biggest federal deficits in history.

With spending like that, you would think traffic on highways would be better, public schools would have improved, unemployment would be at record lows and perhaps our Social Security and health care systems would be more secure than they were four years ago.

Instead, our economic situation has deteriorated, unemployment continues to be high, good jobs are disappearing, we've been distracted from the war on terrorism by an unnecessary war in Iraq that has cost us billions of dollars and hundreds of lives, and fuel prices have reached record highs.

The "borrow and spend" Republicans have mismanaged our economy into record debt as average Americans see no improvement in their day-to-day lives and the rich just keep getting richer.

Yet President Bush will probably be re-elected and the only platform it seems he has to run on is: "I attacked Iraq and God likes me better than He likes you."

I'm angry. I want my country back.

I don't want this new America that attacks other countries based on bad intelligence and poor assumptions.

I want back the old America that wanted to be respected as much as it wanted to be feared. I want back the old America that worked with its long-time allies in mutual respect and cooperation.

I want back the old America that respected differences of opinion, not the new one that tries to cut undesirable citizens out of the Constitution.

I love my country. I spent 20 years in the armed forces. But I feel like it's becoming a stranger to me.

I miss the country that took the high road and offered everyone a fair chance. I miss the America I was raised to love. How did we let it slip away?

Nick G. Marulli

Crofton

Let doctors dispense discounts on drugs

Like most physicians and pharmacists, we find that many seniors are not taking their medications properly because they simply cannot afford them. But the drug companies keep making more and more money.

Nobody knows a patient better than his or her physician -- not the insurance companies, not the government, not the drug manufacturers.

We believe a solution to the high cost of medical drugs would be for the drug companies to supply physicians with rebates for drug discounts, with the drug companies absorbing the cost. Physicians would decide which of their patients to give them to, and those in extreme need would be able to afford the medications they were prescribed.

Such a gesture on the part of the big drug manufacturers would make a tremendous impact in helping a system that is out of control.

Dr. Leeds E. Katzen Towson

Emanuel Richman Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a pharmacist.

Flippant denigration of united Democrats

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