Why haven’t viable environmental groups formed to protect the Ogallala? Because corn contributes so much to the economy that its reign is seldom questioned. Federal subsidy payments to corn growers and the federal mandate to produce ethanol underwrite the waste and pollution.
These subsidies should end. When the farm bill comes up for reauthorization next year, Congress should instead pay farmers to reduce their dependence on irrigation and chemicals. The eastern Nebraska climate is moist enough to grow corn without irrigation. That is how the University of Nebraska football team came to be the Cornhuskers. And the more arid High Plains to the west are known as the nation’s breadbasket because wheat, a drought-tolerant crop, thrives there. - Julene Bair
This op-ed piece is basically right on the money. There is no good reason why the 'cornbelt' should extend further west then Grand Island or Kearney. And the only real reason for why corn farms do extend into the rain shadow of the Rockies where I hail from is the completely insane federal subsidies for a product we have far too much of in regards to other crops. Still I know plenty of friends ans family who think they are helping the environment by buying into the ethanol scam, and new factories for producing the 15 mpg weak-ass shit is the only thing keeping several villages out there in the fields alive. This is just one of several reasons for why ending corn subsidies will be difficult. We are somewhat famous for considering ourselves the most righteous folk in the world, there's a perfectly sincere belief that it isn't welfare when we get it. And the chemicals we're putting into our crops, and than of course our water afterwords, is a different story entirely. Needless to say, the official mainstream belief is that only panicky hippies and freakish enviro nuts would even think to worry about such things.
Oh well. When the Ogallala Aquifer does run out; at the current rate of drainage this will happen while my generation is still very much alive and not very old at all, and everything from Denver east to Lincoln and Salina is abandoned desert, I suppose that would mean that things have taken care of themselves. The free market way, natural like.