In an interview with Des Moines Register staff, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak said conservation compliance will not be a requirement for farmers to receive federal crop insurance. Instead, voluntary programs will be sought. $1.3b in federal subsidies are directed annually to farmers in Iowa alone, a state that not only produces the most corn, but contributes significant amounts of nutrients from annual cropping systems to the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic zone. Taxpayers (i.e., the public) ostensibly receive benefits from subsidizing agriculture (e.g., cheap food). However, would it be fair for the subsidy-providing public to also demand (and receive) environmental benefits (via conservation requirements) for their investment in private economic activity (i.e., farming)? See story published Monday (10/22): http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20121023/BUSINESS01/310230048/1018/SPORTS1301/?odyssey=nav%7Chead&gcheck=1&nclick_check=1. Also see comment by Tim Gieseke of Ag Resource Strategies, LLC.