A nonprofit environmental group has released the results of a public opinion poll that it says shows taxpayers would rather spend money on conservation programs than on farm subsidies. The poll says respondents would have a more favorable view of Congress if its members made such a switch.

The poll, conducted in Colorado, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington by Zogby International for Environmental Defense, found that 76 percent to 86 percent of respondents agreed their U.S. senators should support shifting money from farm subsidies to conservation programs.

The poll results were released on the even of a scheduled vote by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition on the 2007 farm bill. The vote was postponed until after Congress’ Columbus Day recess because of questions about funding sources for the legislation.

Environmental Defense has been issuing press releases claiming farmers in some states would receive more federal funding if Congress shifted money from farm subsidies to conservation programs. ED says the Senate Ag Committee is dominated by farm belt senators whose states “benefit disproportionately from farm programs.

“These poll results suggest that senators outside the traditional farm belt will be taking a political risk if they support a status quo farm bill,” said Sara Hopper, an attorney for Environmental Defense. “As the polls show, senators can improve their standing with the public by supporting reductions in farm subsidies and increased funding programs that reward farmers for helping the environment.”

“Senators who vote to shift tax dollars from subsidies to protect farmland, restore wetlands and help farmers and the environment will be doing what their constituents want,” said Timothy Male, a senior scientist with Environmental Defense. “In the five polls, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents overwhelmingly supported farm bill reform, lowering crop subsidies and increasing conservation funding.”

Environmental Defense listed other findings from the poll:

— At least two out of three poll respondents in each state disapprove of the overall job that Congress has been doing in 2007.

— At least six out of 10 poll respondents in each state would have a more favorable opinion of Congress if it passed a farm bill that substantially increases funding for cleaner water; protects wildlife; preserves farmland; and conserves soil.

— About two out of three poll respondents in each state said that current farm subsidy spending is “somewhat” or “way too much.” (Note: ED says respondents were told that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that farm subsidies will cost a minimum of $40 billion in the next five years under an extension of the current farm bill. Respondents were not told that figure is less than half the spending under the 2002 farm bill.)

— At least seven out of 10 poll respondents in each state said they prefer reducing farm subsidies over tax increases or spending that increases the budget deficit to obtain more money to help farmers “make our rivers, streams, lakes and bays cleaner; protect wildlife; and conserve soil.”

— At least three out of four of poll respondents in each state agree that their U.S. senators should support a farm ill that shifts money from farm subsidies and invests it in programs that help farmers make our rivers, streams, lakes and bays cleaner; promote a healthier food supply; and produce renewable energy that could reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

— About eight out of 10 poll respondents in each state would have a more favorable opinion of Congress if it passed a farm bill that prevents people and corporations with million dollar incomes from receiving farm subsidy payments.

The complete results of the poll, conducted by Zogby International, are available at www.environmentaldefense.org/farms.

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