1984 Scorecard Vote
America is losing about 5 billion tons of topsoil a year -- more than we did in the dustbowl of 1934. In the short term the effects of this erosion can be masked through heavy use of fertilizers, but the long run implications are very frightening. The government spends millions on soil conservation programs, but also spends billions on subsidies to farmers who cultivate marginal, highly erodible land -- a practice known as sawdusting. The plowing of fragile lands in the West can not only ruin those lands, but damage adjacent unplowed land through dust and wind erosion. Government subsidies to "sodbusters" include price supports, farm loans, crop insurance and other farm benefits.
The vote was over how severe federal sanctions ought to be for sodbusting. The Armstrong amendment would have cut off federal farm benefits for crops grown on acreage which was found to be highly erodible by the Soil Conservation Service. Environmentalists supported the tougher sanctions in the Melcher substitute, which cut off federal benefits for all of a farmer's crop if any part of that crop was produced on highly erodible land.
The Melcher substitute was adopted 62-34; August 9, 1984. YES is the pro-environmental vote. (Melcher substitute to the Armstrong amendment to fiscal 1985 Agriculture Appropriations bill, H.R. 5743.) The Reagan Administration supported the Melcher substitute. The bill died in Conference, but sodbuster legislation is likely to come up again in 1985.