So we listened to the first part of Biden's address before both my mom and I left the room. My dad was getting spellbound but finally shut it off when he realized he was all alone there.
He kept pitching the idea that technologically we need to keep up with China (no we don't, not unless you intend to sell tech to then, our country is a major agricultural exporter, or was, most of it doesn't care about being the most industrial nation, and you can't feed a country if you stop growing wheat and corn). Meanwhile, he said about agriculture that he would pay farmers to plant cover crops. I think it was part of his pitch for environment or maybe supporting businesses, or whatever. Most of this man's listeners couldn't tell you a spade from a shovel, so this term gets lost, so let me break it down for you.
A cover crop is something planted to cover the ground instead of being harvested. They are being paid to not grow food for a country with millions of people who need food. Or to grow things that could technically be used as food but not take them to market.
Yes, you could technically revitalize soil by planting say soy beans to nitrogen fix rather than to harvest. This does protect land from becoming dried out through repeated growth of nutrient-sapping vegetables to prevent desertification.
But farmers already address this problem by things like crop rotation. Typically the trend is to grow corn, wheat, and soybean. But all of these do get harvested. All of these do get sold, and nitrogen fixing happens regardless. There are also other ways of addressing the problem of sustainable crops. Adding nutrients back into the soil is the basic issue to continue growing year after year. On our farm, we compost, we mulch, and we get fertilizer from our neighbor who has horses. We also get natural fertilizer from rabbits I imagine (which we've fenced off because they're eating our peas, which may affect fertility in the future but anyway the peas themselves fix nitrogen). You can grow crops and still use them. Or you can grow them and be paid not to use them.
Sure, you get a paycheck. But it's a payout, not money that in turn enriches the country through trade and export. Our family only does farming for personal subsistence. But I could see through this. This is sabotage of natural resources. "Competing with China," huh? And how do you intend to do that, if now they're supplying all your food? Retrain farmers to have a degree in computer science? Great, why not give all that land to cities, because you've just bankrupted rural America.
Here's a better way to protect the environment. We watched a movie called Biggest Little Farm, where like one farm near LA had inherited from previous farmers, where the soil had basically gone dead from repeated conventional farming. They turned that around 180 by raising small animals (pigs, chickens, ducks, as well as allowing wild animals to come in) in addition to having many crops. Rather than monoculture, they solved the problem of soil fertility by creating an ecosystem. They had foxes and groundhogs as well as other wildlife, and their soil turned out really well because some of these animals turned the soil or scratched around nearby, others fertilized it, others kept other wildlife in check.
One of the problems that can be addressed to improve the environment is monoculture. We should grow many and varied crops, because bees need to be able to pollinate and feed themselves, and do best when it isn't corn corn corn all down the farm. This also helps employ more people as you need to do multiple harvests to account for each crop, and can't just just do the whole thing with a tractor in one day, reducing the oil usage on the farm as well. Cover crops? Code for not growing anything of value.
Cover cropping has its uses, but you can just as easily do this for 1/2 or 1/3 of your farm (effectively letting the wildlife help it out), and continue to at least make a profit. You could pay to have farmers avoid monoculture farming. But this, this is terrible.