Conservation and protection of Mother Earth's soil, water, and wildlife resources are inextricably connected to farm profits. Profitable farms make it much easier for well-intentioned farmers and ranchers (who are in the vast majority) to initiate and sustain conservation efforts. And, the more profit the landowner makes, the fewer federal, state, and county tax dollars required for natural resource programs.
Conversely, a financially strapped landowner is essentially forced into "mining" his soils in a short-term effort to stay on the farm -- or at the very least, forced to forego natural resource conservation measures needed on his/her land.
In more than 30 years of working with ag producers, I've yet to meet one who had no feeling or concern for the natural environment or who intentionally did environmental damage. But, I've met many who admitted they were unable to do all the needed conservation measures on their land.
Bottomline, low commodity prices, not ag producer ethics, are the
prime instrument of rural environmental degradation. And, in a very real
sense, the cost of both natural resource conservation and resource degradation
must be added to the cost of "cheap" food in the U.S.