The United States government generally tries to protect valuable natural resources. But one resource has been ignored for too long. In the United States, each bushel of corn produced might result in the loss of as much as two bushels of topsoil. Moreover, in the last 100 years, the topsoil in many states, which once was about fourteen inches thick, has been eroded to only six or eight inches. Nonetheless, federal expenditures for nationwide soil conservation programs have remained at ridiculously low levels. Total federal expenditures for nationwide soil conservation programs have been less than the allocations of some individual states.

Which one of the following best expresses the main point of the argument?

[A]. Corn is not a cost-effective product and substitutes should be found where possible.
[B]. A layer of topsoil only six to eight inches thick cannot support the continued cultivation of corn.
[C]. Soil conservation is a responsibility of the federal government, not the states.
[D]. The federal government’s expenditures for soil conservation in the various states have been inequitable.
[E]. The federal government should spend much more on soil conservation than it has been spending.
Answer: E

The author has found an exception to the general government policy of conserving valuable natural resources—topsoil, which is eroding at an alarming rate. In many states, 100 years of farming has led to the loss of half the topsoil. The federal government’s response has been inadequate; federal funding is described as “ridiculously low,” and we’re told that some states actually devote more money to conserving topsoil than the federal government does. The point of all this is expressed in (E): The federal government is spending far too little on soil conservation and it should spend more.

(A) Come on, you know this thing isn’t about corn—in fact, corn is only mentioned as an example of topsoil erosion. This choice fails to even mention the main topic, topsoil.

(B) may or may not be inferable, but it’s certainly not the main point. Like (A), this choice over-relies on the corn element, and totally ignores the issue in the last two sentences: federal expenditures.

(C) misses the author’s criticism; instead of merely arguing that the federal government is responsible, she says that the feds aren’t doing enough monetarily and should do more. Moreover, she never says conservation isn’t the responsibility of the states.

(D) too is a distortion. The author doesn’t accuse the feds of making an unfair distribution between states; her point is that the federal government is shortchanging all the states.

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