Agricultural Conservation: FY2022 Appropriations

Agricultural Conservation: FY2022
November 22, 2021
Appropriations
Megan Stubbs
The Agriculture appropriations bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except for
Specialist in Agricultural
the Forest Service. For FY2022, the House Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 4356 on
Conservation and Natural
June 30, 2021, and the Senate Appropriations Committee reported S. 2599 on August 4, 2021.
Resources Policy
The House passed a seven-bill omnibus appropriation (H.R. 4502) on July 29, 2021, with

Agriculture appropriations as Division B. The FY2022 House-passed and Senate-reported bills
include funding for USDA conservation programs and activities. Differences between the two

versions are unresolved, as of this report’s date. In the absence of an enacted full-year
appropriation, Congress passed a continuing resolution (P.L. 117-43, Division A) through December 3, 2021.
Agricultural conservation programs include both mandatory and discretionary spending. Most conservation program funding
is mandatory and is authorized in omnibus farm bills. Other conservation programs—mostly technical assistance—operate
with discretionary funding through annual appropriations.
The largest discretionary conservation program is the Conservation Operations (CO) account, which funds conservation
planning and implementation assistance on private agricultural lands across the country. The Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) administers the CO account. CO funds are used to support nearly half of the salaries and expenses for NRCS
staff, as well as NRCS technology development, conservation system design, compliance reviews, grants to partners for
additional technical assistance capacity, and resource assessment reports. A decline in funding for CO over the past 10 years
has resulted in reduced NRCS staffing levels. Reductions in staff may affect NRCS’s ability to provide technical assistance
and administer farm bill conservation programs to farmers and ranchers.
The FY2022 House-passed and Senate-reported bills would increase funding for CO. The House bill would increase funding
by $62.0 million above FY2021 levels to $894.7 million. The Senate-reported bill would increase funding for CO by $105.2
million above FY2021 levels to $938.0 million. While the total amount for CO funding would increase under both FY2022
bills, a larger portion of the funding would be directed to specific conservation programs and activities than for other uses,
such as staff positions. The Administration’s FY2022 request is for an increase in CO funding of $53.5 million from the
FY2021 appropriation without a proposed increase in staff. The request proposes that the increase in funds be used primarily
for climate change-related initiatives.
Other discretionary spending for agricultural conservation is primarily for watershed programs. The House-passed and
Senate-reported bills include $10.0 million for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program––the same amount enacted in FY2021.
The largest program—Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO)—received $175.0 million in FY2021. For
FY2022, the House-passed bill would decrease WFPO funding to $160.0 million. The Senate-reported bill would increase
funding in FY2022 to $198.0 million, with the additional $23.2 million in funding designated for congressionally directed
spending (earmarks). For FY2022, the House and Senate resumed allowing earmarks in appropriations. The House-passed
bill for FY2022 does not include earmarks to conservation accounts. The Senate-reported bill contains 24 earmarks totaling
$42.9 million in two accounts—CO and WFPO.
Conservation programs funded with mandatory spending do not require annual appropriations, but Congress can reduce
mandatory spending programs in appropriations through Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS). Congress
enacted CHIMPS on agricultural conservation programs every year between FY2003 and FY2018. Since FY2019, Congress
has transferred $60.2 million each year from mandatory conservation programs to fund administrative activities. The FY2022
House-passed and Senate-reported bills both include a similar transfer for FY2022.
Agriculture appropriations bills also may include policy-related provisions that direct how the executive branch is to carry
out the appropriations. The FY2022 House-passed and Senate-reported bills both include policy provisions for conservation
programs, ranging from waiving specific programmatic requirements to requiring reports to Congress.
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Contents
Conservation Appropriations ........................................................................................................... 1
Discretionary Conservation Programs ............................................................................................. 1

Conservation Operations ........................................................................................................... 1
Funding for Technical Assistance.............................................................................................. 4
NRCS Staffing Levels ............................................................................................................... 7
Watershed Programs .................................................................................................................. 8
Congressionally Directed Spending (Earmarks) ....................................................................... 9
Mandatory Conservation Programs ............................................................................................... 10
Policy-Related Provisions .............................................................................................................. 11

Figures
Figure 1. Conservation Operations Appropriations, by Function, FY2012-FY2022 ...................... 2
Figure 2. Conservation Operations (CO) Appropriated Funding, FY1999-FY2022 ....................... 5
Figure 3. FY2021 Estimated NRCS Technical Assistance, by Program ......................................... 6
Figure 4. Total Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Staffing, FY1999-
FY2022 ......................................................................................................................................... 7
Figure 5. Projected Mandatory Conservation Program Funding, FY2021 and FY2022 ............... 10

Tables
Table 1. FY2020-FY2022 Discretionary Agricultural Conservation Funding ................................ 3
Table 2. FY2022 Earmark Totals in S. 2599, by State and Conservation Program ......................... 9
Table 3. Selected Conservation Policy Provisions in the FY2021 and FY2022
Appropriations Acts .................................................................................................................... 12
Table 4. Selected Conservation Policy Provisions Directing Funding Amounts in FY2021
and FY2022 Appropriations Explanatory Statements ................................................................ 14
Table 5. Summary of Selected Conservation Policy Provisions in FY2021 and FY2022
Appropriations Explanatory Statements ..................................................................................... 16

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 18

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Agricultural Conservation: FY2022 Appropriations

he Agriculture appropriations bill—formally called the Agriculture, Rural Development,
Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act—funds all of the
T U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), excluding the U.S. Forest Service. For FY2022,
the House Appropriations Committee reported H.R. 4356 on June 30, 2021 (including H.Rept.
117-82), and the Senate Appropriations Committee reported S. 2599 on August 4, 2021 (including
S.Rept. 117-34). The House passed a seven-bill omnibus appropriation (H.R. 4502) on July 29,
2021, with Agriculture appropriations as Division B. The measure was not completed before the
end of FY2021. On September 30, 2021, Congress passed a continuing resolution (P.L. 117-43,
Division A), which provides funding for USDA through December 3, 2021.
This report provides a brief overview of the conservation-related provisions in the FY2022
Agriculture appropriations bills. For a general analysis of FY2022 appropriations for agriculture,
see CRS Report R46951, Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2022 Appropriations.
Conservation Appropriations
USDA administers numerous agricultural conservation programs that assist private landowners
with making land improvements and addressing natural resource concerns. These include
working lands programs, land retirement and easement programs, watershed programs, technical
assistance, and other programs. The two lead agricultural conservation agencies within USDA are
the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which provides technical assistance and
administers most conservation programs, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers
the Conservation Reserve Program.1
Most conservation program funding is mandatory, obtained through the Commodity Credit
Corporation (CCC), and authorized in omnibus farm bills (about $5.9 billion of CCC budget
authority in FY2022).2 The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 farm bill; P.L. 115-334)
reauthorized most mandatory conservation programs through FY2023. Other conservation
programs—most of which provide technical assistance—operate with discretionary funding
provided in annual appropriations (about $1 billion annually).
The FY2022 House-passed and Senate-reported appropriations bills generally would increase
funding above FY2021 levels for discretionary conservation programs. The Biden
Administration’s FY2022 request also proposes an increase for discretionary conservation
funding from the FY2021 enacted levels.
Discretionary Conservation Programs
Conservation Operations
NRCS administers all of USDA’s discretionary conservation programs. The largest program and
the account that funds most NRCS activities is Conservation Operations (CO). The CO account
primarily funds Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA), which provides conservation planning
and implementation assistance from field staff placed in almost all counties within the United

1 For more information on individual conservation programs, see CRS Report R40763, Agricultural Conservation: A
Guide to Programs
.
2 The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is a mandatory funding mechanism for agriculture programs administered
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more information on the CCC, see CRS Report R44606, The
Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC)
.
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Agricultural Conservation: FY2022 Appropriations

States and its territories. Other components of CO include the Soil Survey, Snow Survey and
Water Supply Forecasting, and Plant Materials Centers (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Conservation Operations Appropriations, by Function, FY2012-FY2022

Source: Figure created by Congressional Research Service (CRS) based on appropriations acts.
Notes: CTA = Conservation Technical Assistance; PMC = Plant Materials Centers; and Other = Grazing Lands
Conservation Initiatives, watershed projects, rescissions, and other congressionally directed funds. House refers
to H.R. 4502 (as passed by the House), Division B, and Senate refers to S. 2599 (as reported by the Senate
Appropriations Committee). Depending on the legislative text, some programs included in Other during one year
may be accounted for in CTA in another year.
The CO account is the primary source of discretionary funding for technical assistance (see
“Funding for Technical Assistance” section for additional detail). The Biden Administration’s
FY2022 budget requests $886.3 million for CO, $53.6 million (+6.4%) more than enacted for
FY2021. The House-passed bill adopts much, but not all, of the Administration’s request,
proposing $8.5 million more than the Administration’s request and $62.0 million (+7.4%) more
than the FY2021 enacted. The Senate-reported bill also exceeds the Administration’s request,
proposing $43.2 million more than the House-passed bill and $105.2 million (12.6%) more than
the FY2021 enacted amount.
Both the House-passed and Senate-reported bills direct a portion of CO funding to specific
conservation programs and initiatives (Table 1). Language in H.Rept. 117-82 (accompanying
H.R. 4356) and S.Rept. 117-34 (accompanying S. 2599) further directs funding to selected
activities and earmarks (Table 4 and Table 5). In some cases, funding from CO would be directed
to programs or initiatives that in prior years have been funded outside of the CO account. For
example, the FY2020 and FY2021 enacted appropriations included funding for the Office of
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Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production in the General Provisions title ($5.0 million and
$7.0 million, respectively). The FY2022 Administration’s request includes funding for the Office
of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production as a standalone appropriation ($9.5 million)
under NRCS. The House-passed and Senate-reported bills, however, would fund this program
from the CO account ($9.5 million and $8.0 million, respectively). Therefore, while the total
amount for CO funding would increase under the House-passed and Senate-reported bills, much
of the increase would go to these directed activities (Table 1).
Table 1. FY2020-FY2022 Discretionary Agricultural Conservation Funding
(budget authority in thousands of dollars)

FY2020
FY2021
FY2022
P.L. 116-
P.L. 116-
Admin.
House-
Senate-
Enacted
Program
94
260
Request
passed
reported
Conservation Operations (CO)
Conservation Technical
Assistance
735,760
734,255
773,813
759,813
784,813

Watershed Projectsa
5,600
3,000
0
0
0

Climate Change-Related
Initiatives

0
0
29,000
15,000
20,000

Soil Health Initiative
0
0
0
2,000
3,000

Grazing Lands Conservation
Initiative

0
0
0
0
20,000

Soil Survey
74,987
79,444
84,444
84,444
84,500

Snow Survey
9,400
9,488
16,488
14,488
16,500

Plant Material Centers
9,481
9,540
11,540
11,540
9,540

Urban Agriculture and
Innovative Productionb
0
0
0
9,458
8,000

Heathy Forest Reserve
Program
0
0
0
10,000
0

Feral Hog Fencing
0
0
0
5,000
0

NFWF Working Land
Resilience Program
0
0
0
0
15,000

CO Earmarks (see Table 2)
NA
NA
NA
NA
19,611

Total Conservation
Operations
829,628
832,727
886,285
894,743
937,964

Watershed Operations
175,000
175,000
175,000
160,000
198,275

Watershed Earmarks (see
Table 2)
NA
NA
NA
NA
23,275

Watershed Rehabilitation
Program

10,000
10,000
10,000
10,000
10,000

Water Bank
[4,000]
[4,000]
0
0
[4,000]

Heathy Forest Reserve
Program

0
0
20,000
0
0

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FY2020
FY2021
FY2022
P.L. 116-
P.L. 116-
Admin.
House-
Senate-
Enacted
Program
94
260
Request
passed
reported
Urban Agriculture and
Innovative Production
b
[5,000]
[7,000]
9,458
0
0

Total NRCS Discretionary
1,014,628
1,017,727
1,100,743
1,064,743
1,146,239

Source: Prepared by CRS using appropriations text and report tables. House-passed refers to H.R. 4502,
Division B, and Senate-reported refers to S. 2599.
Notes: Amounts are nominal discretionary budget authority in thousands of dol ars unless labeled otherwise.
Italics indicate funding that is shown within other accounts in the table. Bracketed amounts are not included in
totals; they indicate funding appropriated in General Provisions and accounted for separately from the Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) appropriations. Excludes amounts in supplemental appropriations acts
and proposed rescission language. NFWF = National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; NA = Not applicable.
a. In FY2020, separate funding levels were provided for selected watershed projects, with a primary purpose
to provide water to rural communities from within Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA). In the
FY2021 enacted appropriation, this language was moved to the Watershed Operations account. Language
also was included in the FY2021 enacted appropriation directing funding from CTA to watershed projects
authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534). While similar in nature, they are for
distinctly different watershed projects. For additional discussion, see the “Watershed Programs” section.
b. FY2020 and FY2021 enacted included funding for the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production program
in the General Provisions title. The FY2022 Administration’s request includes funding as a standalone
appropriation, and the House and Senate bil s would fund the office from CO.
Funding for Technical Assistance
NRCS is the federal provider of technical assistance for agricultural conservation.3 At the
landowner’s request, NRCS provides technical assistance to conserve and improve natural
resources. The assistance includes technical expertise combined with knowledge of local
conditions and is provided through a network of federal staff throughout the United States.
Technical assistance for conservation is funded through both mandatory and discretionary
sources, with CO being the primary account receiving discretionary funding from annual
appropriations. The CTA program within CO funds much of the conservation technical assistance
provided by NRCS. Funds support salaries and expenses for NRCS staff, technology
development, conservation system design, compliance reviews, grants to partners for additional
technical assistance capacity, and resource assessment reports. Total funding for CO has
fluctuated in recent years. In some cases, fluctuations in funding were the result of an
Administration’s request. In other cases, funding changes reflected national budget dynamics that
were not unique to CO (e.g., reductions caused by fiscal pressures and sequestration in FY2013
and funding increases through budget agreements in FY2014-FY2021). In inflation-adjusted
dollars, CO has declined over the past 20 years (see Figure 2).
The other side of agricultural conservation assistance is financial assistance. Financial assistance
provides direct payments to landowners to implement certain conservation practices or to
conserve and protect natural resources on private land. Most programs providing financial
assistance are authorized through omnibus farm bills and receive funding from mandatory
sources—thus, they do not require an annual appropriation.

3 The statutory authority to provide conservation technical assistance is derived from the Soil Conservation and
Domestic Allotment Act of 1935 (P.L. 74-46; 16 U.S.C. §590 et seq.).
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In addition to technical assistance provided through CTA and CO, technical assistance is part of
farm bill conservation programs, which are funded through a program’s mandatory authorization.
Most technical assistance activities within mandatory programs support the delivery of some level
of financial assistance as part of a contract or agreement (Figure 3). These activities could
include providing designs, standards, and specifications needed to install approved conservation
practices and activities.
Figure 2. Conservation Operations (CO) Appropriated Funding, FY1999-FY2022

Sources: Figure created by CRS using historical appropriations; and Office of Management and Budget, Table
10.1—Gross Domestic Product and Deflators Used in the Historical Tables: 1940–2026
, May 2021, at
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/hist10z1_fy22.xlsx.
Notes: The blue line is funding in nominal dol ars, whereas the inflation-adjusted red line is calculated using the
gross domestic product price deflator in FY2022 dol ars. Green dots are FY2022 CO totals in the FY2022
Administration’s request, House-passed H.R. 4502, Division B, and Senate-reported S. 2599, respectively.
Generally, technical assistance prior to a producer entering into a contract for financial assistance
is considered part of CTA. After a producer signs a contract for financial assistance, technical
assistance is funded from the individual mandatory program rather than CTA. Once the financial
assistance contract is complete, most mandatory program funds are no longer available to support
ongoing assistance in maintaining the conservation plans, practices, and activities implemented
under the financial assistance program.
As Figure 3 shows, mandatory programs fund the majority of NRCS technical assistance.
Proposals to increase financial assistance for the farm bill conservation programs would likely
require a corresponding increase in the amount of technical assistance needed for implementation.
For example, the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376, passed by the House) would increase
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selected farm bill conservation programs and CTA.4 Without an increase in discretionary
spending accounts, implementation of additional financial assistance could potentially be
hindered since technical assistance prior to a financial assistance contract generally is funded
through discretionary spending accounts (i.e., CTA).
Figure 3. FY2021 Estimated NRCS Technical Assistance, by Program
(budget authority in millions of dollars)

Source: Figure created by CRS using USDA, FY2022 Budget Explanatory Notes—Natural Resources Conservation
Service
, p. 29.
Notes: The figure reflects the total resources for staff, as reported by NRCS, as necessary to implement NRCS-
administered conservation programs, including technical assistance for the Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP). The total for discretionary technical assistance includes associated science and technology programs
funded through the Conservation Operations account. The total for mandatory technical assistance includes the
amount reported by NRCS as necessary to implement farm bill authorized conservation programs. ACEP =
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program; CSP = Conservation Stewardship Program; EQIP = Environmental
Quality Incentives Program; PMC = Plant Material Centers; and RCPP = Regional Conservation Partnership
Program. ACEP, CRP, CSP, EQIP, and RCPP are authorized through farm bil s, most recently the Agriculture
Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-334). Expired Farm Bill Programs include Agricultural Water Enhancement
Program, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, Grassland Reserve
Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. Other Farm Bill Programs include
the NRCS portion of Agricultural Management Assistance, Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive
Program, Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot, and Healthy Forest Reserve Program.

4 H.R. 5376 (as passed by the House) would increase selected farm bill conservation programs by $22.3 billion over
five years. The act would also increase Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) by $950 million over five years, with
$200 million for the NRCS to provide technical assistance and $100 million for administrative costs. The remaining
CTA funds would be directed to climate change-related initiatives.
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NRCS Staffing Levels
The CO account funds close to half of NRCS staff; other smaller discretionary programs and
mandatory conservation programs account for the remainder. The total number of permanent
positions at NRCS funded by CO declined from FY2014 through FY2019. The number of
unfilled positions at the agency further magnified this reduction in staff until FY2020, when there
was a slight increase (see Figure 4). The Administration’s FY2022 request includes no increase
in proposed staff, notwithstanding a requested increase in CO funding of $53.6 million compared
with FY2021. According to the request, this increase in funding would be used primarily for
climate change-related initiatives.5 If FY2021 staffing estimates were realized and no additional
staff were added in FY2022, NRCS staffing levels would have increased from their recent low
levels (FY2018 through FY2020) but would still remain below higher staffing levels experienced
before FY2017 (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. Total Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Staffing, FY1999-
FY2022

Source: Figure created by CRS using annual USDA Budget Explanatory Notes.
Notes: A staff year is equivalent to one ful -time person working for one year. CO = Conservation Operations
and EOY = end of year.

5 For additional information, see CRS Report R46454, Climate Change Adaptation: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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Watershed Programs
The House-passed and Senate-reported bills both contain funding for watershed activities,
including Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO)—a program that assists state and
local organizations with planning and installing measures to prevent erosion, sedimentation, and
flood damage.6 The House-passed bill would reduce WFPO funding to $160.0 million, $15.0
million less than the FY2021 level of $175.0 million. The Senate-reported bill would increase
funding to $198.3 million, with the $23.3 million increase directed to earmarks. The
Administration’s FY2022 request proposes a consistent $175 million.
WFPO consists of projects built under two authorities—the Watershed Protection and Flood
Prevention Act of 1954 (P.L. 83-566) and the Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-534). The vast
majority of the projects (referred to as P.L. 566 projects) have been built pursuant to the authority
of P.L. 83-566, which authorizes the chief of the NRCS to approve construction of smaller
watershed projects.7 Congressional approval is needed for larger P.L. 566 projects. The Flood
Control Act of 1944 authorized 11 specific projects, referred to as P.L. 534 projects, which are
much larger and more expensive than P.L. 566 projects.
Since FY2014, Congress has directed a portion of CO funds to selected WFPO activities. The
enacted FY2021 appropriation included similar directive language but shifted a portion to the
WFPO account (Table 1). The House-passed and Senate-reported bills do not transfer CO funds
for WFPO activities, but both bills would direct WFPO funding to specific activities (Table 3).
The House-passed bill would direct $65.0 million of available WFPO funding to projects that
could commence promptly, address regional priorities, or are authorized under the Flood Control
Act of 1944 (P.L. 534 projects). The Senate-reported bill includes similar language for $10.0
million of available WFPO funds. The Senate-reported bill also would direct $23.3 million for
WFPO earmarks and $10.0 million for projects that provide water to rural communities.
The House-passed and Senate-reported bills include $10.0 million for the Watershed
Rehabilitation Program––the same as enacted in FY2021. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program
repairs aging dams built by USDA under WFPO. The Biden Administration also requests $10.0
million in FY2022.
The 2018 farm bill provides $50.0 million annually in permanent mandatory funding for WFPO
and Watershed Rehabilitation activities. The mandatory funding is in addition to discretionary
funding provided through annual appropriations.8 Also separate from annual appropriations, the
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58, Division J, Title I) provides $918.0 million
for NRCS watershed programs in FY2022, including $500.0 million for WFPO, $118.0 million
for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, and $300.0 million for the Emergency Watershed
Protection Program. Funding is available until expended.

6 For additional information, see CRS Report R46471, Federally Supported Projects and Programs for Wastewater,
Drinking Water, and Water Supply Infrastructure
.
7 In general, no P.L. 566 project may exceed 250,000 acres, and no structure may exceed 12,500 acre-feet of floodwater
detention capacity or 25,000 acre-feet of total capacity.
8 For additional discussion of changes made in the 2018 farm bill, see CRS Report R45698, Agricultural Conservation
in the 2018 Farm Bill
.
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Congressionally Directed Spending (Earmarks)
For FY2022, the House and Senate resumed allowing earmarks in appropriations.9 Appropriations
acts last contained earmarks in FY2010.10 Earmarks generally are defined as congressionally
directed spending that noncompetitively benefits a specific entity or locality. Both chambers’
rules require that appropriations reports disclose earmarks.11
The House-passed bill for FY2022 does not include earmarks to conservation accounts. The
Senate-reported bill contains 24 earmarks totaling $42.9 million in two accounts—CO and WFPO
(Table 2).
Table 2. FY2022 Earmark Totals in S. 2599, by State and Conservation Program
(dollars in thousands)
Conservation
Watershed and Flood
State
Operation
Prevention Operations
Total
Connecticut
5,000
0
5,000
Il inois
1,000
0
1,000
Kansas
0
500
500
Mississippi
0
8,400
8,400
New Mexico
1,227
0
1,227
Ohio
1,763
0
1,763
Oregon
750
9,375
10,125
Pennsylvania
3,247
0
3,247
Rhode Island
374
5,000
5,374
Vermont
6,250
0
6,250
Total Earmarks
19,611
23,275
42,886
Account Total
937,964
198,275
NA
Percent Earmarked
2%
12%
NA
Source: Prepared by CRS using Congressionally Directed Spending (earmark) tables in S.Rept. 117-34
(accompanying S. 2599).
WFPO was the conservation program most affected by earmarks before the moratorium in
FY2011; the account included earmarks in amounts that varied annually. For example, in
FY2009, 97% of the funds appropriated for WFPO were earmarked for specific projects, whereas
in FY2010, 74% of appropriated WFPO funds were earmarked.12 The high percentage of

9 CRS Report R46722, Community Project Funding: House Rules and Committee Protocols.
10 CRS Report R40976, Earmarks Disclosed by Congress: FY2008-FY2010 Regular Appropriations Bills.
11 CRS Report RS22866, Earmark Disclosure Rules in the House: Member and Committee Requirements; and CRS
Report RS22867, Earmark Disclosure Rules in the Senate: Member and Committee Requirements.
12 The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8) appropriated $24.3 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention
Operations (WFPO), of which $23.6 million was for congressionally designated projects. The Agriculture, Rural
Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-80)
appropriated $30 million for WFPO, of which $22.1 million was for congressionally designated projects.
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earmarks and program inflexibility were cited among several reasons that no funding for the
program was requested in annual budget requests in some years.13
Mandatory Conservation Programs
Mandatory conservation programs generally are authorized in omnibus farm bills and receive
funding from the CCC—thus, they do not require an annual appropriation. The 2018 farm bill
reauthorized mandatory funding through FY2023 for many of the agricultural conservation
programs.14 Because these programs—with the exception of the Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP)—are classified as mandatory, nonexempt spending, they are reduced annually by about 6%
by budget sequestration (Figure 5).15
Figure 5. Projected Mandatory Conservation Program Funding, FY2021 and FY2022
(budget authority in millions of dollars)

Sources: Figure created by CRS using Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Baseline Projections: USDA’s Farm
Programs
, July 2021, at https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2021-07/51317-2021-07-usda.pdf; and appropriations for
CHIMPS.

13 Annual requests for no funding for WFPO began in FY2006 under the George W. Bush Administration and
continued until the Obama Administration’s FY2016 request, which marked the first time in a decade that an
Administration requested funding for the program.
14 For authorized funding levels for mandatory conservation programs, see CRS Report R40763, Agricultural
Conservation: A Guide to Programs
.
15 For additional discussion on sequestration, see Appendix C of CRS Report R46951, Agriculture and Related
Agencies: FY2022 Appropriations
.
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Notes: Seq. & CHIMPS = Announced sequestration and changes in mandatory program spending (i.e., transfers
to the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center); Other = budget authority for the Emergency
Forestry Conservation Reserve Program, Grassroots Source Water Protection, Feral Swine Eradication,
Agricultural Management Assistance program, Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive, Watershed and
Flood Prevention Operations, Watershed Rehabilitation Program, Conservation User Fees, and programs
repealed by the 2014 farm bil ; RCPP = Regional Conservation Partnership Program; ACEP = Agricultural
Conservation Easement Program; CSP = Conservation Stewardship Program; EQIP = Environmental Quality
Incentives Program; and CRP = Conservation Reserve Program. CSP amounts are divided by contracts
authorized under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79) and Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-
334).
Congress has used annual Agriculture appropriations acts to reduce funding to mandatory
conservation programs through Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS) every year
from FY2003 to FY2017.16 The FY2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-141) marked
the first appropriation since FY2002 that did not include CHIMPS to conservation programs, thus
allowing all mandatory conservation programs to use their fully authorized level of funding,
minus sequestration.
In FY2019, Congress began transferring funds to the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC)
Business Center from other accounts, including from mandatory conservation programs.17 This
transfer creates CHIMPS in three conservation programs—Agricultural Conservation Easement
Program (ACEP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality
Incentives Program (EQIP).18 The FY2022 House-passed and Senate-reported bills both include
the Administration’s request for transferring $60.2 million in conservation program CHIMPS to
the FPAC Business Center. The same CHIMPS amount ($60.2 million) for the same conservation
programs was included in each annual appropriation from FY2019 through FY2021.
Policy-Related Provisions
In addition to setting budgetary amounts, the Agriculture appropriations bill also may include
policy-related provisions that direct how the executive branch is to carry out an appropriation.
These provisions may have the force of law if they are included in the text of an appropriations
act, but their effect is generally limited to the current fiscal year (see Table 3). Policy-related
provisions in appropriations acts generally do not amend the U.S. Code or have a multiyear effect.
For example, the WFPO program historically has been called the “small watershed program”
because no project may exceed 250,000 acres, and no structure may exceed 12,500 acre-feet of
floodwater detention capacity or 25,000 acre-feet of total capacity. The FY2021 enacted
appropriation includes a policy provision that waives the 250,000-acre project limit when the

16 Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS) are adjustments via an appropriations act that can change
available funding for mandatory programs. CHIMPS usually change spending for one year and may score as an
increase or decrease to outlays. They do not change the underlying authority of the program in law. For additional
background on CHIMPS, see CRS In Focus IF10041, Reductions to Mandatory Agricultural Conservation Programs in
Appropriations Law
.
17 For additional background on the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center and conservation
programs, see CRS Report R46728, FY2021 Appropriations for Agricultural Conservation.
18 The Administration’s FY2022 request to transfer $60.2 million to the FPAC Business Center from mandatory
conservation programs would be divided as follows: $8.3 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement
Program (ACEP), $21.2 million from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and $30.7 million from the
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). None of the funds is proposed to come from the Conservation
Reserve Program.
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project’s primary purpose is something other than flood prevention.19 This provision does not
amend the WFPO authorization and is effective only for the funds provided during the current
appropriation year.20 The House-passed and Senate-reported bills for FY2022 both include a
similar provision.
Many of these provisions have been included in past years’ appropriations acts. Some provisions
in report language and bill text address conservation programs that are not authorized or funded
within the annual appropriations (i.e., mandatory spending for farm bill-authorized programs).
Table 3 compares some of the conservation-related policy provisions in the Farm Production and
Conservation Programs (Title II) and General Provisions (Title VII) titles of the enacted FY2021
Agriculture appropriation with those in the House-passed and Senate-reported bills for FY2022.
Many of these provisions were included in past years’ appropriations acts. The table is divided by
agency and account according to their location within the bills.
Table 3. Selected Conservation Policy Provisions in the FY2021 and FY2022
Appropriations Acts
FY2021
FY2022
Enacted, P.L. 116-260
House-passed, H.R. 4502
Senate-reported, S. 2599
Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center
FPAC Business Center. Directs
Same as FY2021 enacted (Title II).
Same as FY2021 enacted (Title II).
the transfer of $60.2 mil ion from
mandatory conservation program
accounts to the Business Center
account (Title II).
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
Conservation Operation (CO).
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $3.0 mil ion of CO to
projects authorized under the Flood
Control Act of 1944 (Title II).
No comparable provision.
Directs $15.0 mil ion of CO for
No comparable provision.
climate change-related initiatives,
including climate science and hubs
(Title II).
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $19.6 mil ion of CO for 17
“Congressionally Directed
Spending” projects (Title II).

19 The appropriation for NRCS in P.L. 116-260 states, “Provided, That for funds provided by this Act or any other prior
Act, the limitation regarding the size of the watershed or subwatershed exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand acres
in which such activities can be undertaken shall only apply for activities undertaken for the primary purpose of flood
prevention (including structural and land treatment measures).” The underlying limitation referred to is 16 U.S.C.
§1002.
20 The provision applies to the $175 million in FY2021 and any funds previously provided. Since WFPO funding is
available until expended, it is possible that the waiver could carry forward into future fiscal years but only for funds
made available in or prior to FY2021.
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FY2021
FY2022
Enacted, P.L. 116-260
House-passed, H.R. 4502
Senate-reported, S. 2599
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $15.0 mil ion of CO to
National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation to establish a voluntary
cost-share program for agricultural
producers to increase resilience
from adverse weather events
(Title II).
See Office of Urban Agriculture and
Directs $9.5 mil ion of CO for the
Directs $8.0 mil ion of CO for the
Innovative Production line, below,
Urban Agriculture and Innovative
Urban Agriculture and Innovative
providing $7.0 mil ion for the office
Production Program (Title II).
Production Program (Title II).
(§754).
No comparable provision.
Directs $10.0 mil ion of CO for
No comparable provision.
Healthy Forests Reserve Program
(Title II).
Watershed Operations. Limits
Same as FY2021 enacted (Title II).
No comparable provision.
the application of the 250,000-acre
limitation in Watershed and Flood
Prevention Operations (WFPO) to
activities for which the primary
purpose is flood prevention (Title
II
).
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $23.3 mil ion of WFPO for
7 “Congressionally Directed
Spending” projects (Title II).
Directs $65.0 mil ion of available
Same as FY2021 enacted (Title II).
Similar to FY2021 enacted but
funds to be allocated to projects that
reduced to $10.0 mil ion of
commence promptly, address select
available funds (Title II).
regional priorities, or are authorized
under the Flood Control Act of 1944
(Title II).
Directs $10.0 mil ion to projects
No comparable provision.
Same as FY2021 enacted (Title II).
providing water to rural
communities (Title II).
General Provisions
Agricultural Management
Same as FY2021 enacted (§707).
Same as FY2021 enacted (§707).
Assistance (AMA). Allows AMA
funds to remain available until
expended (§707).
Experienced Services Program.
Same as FY2021 enacted (§767).
Same as FY2021 enacted (§755).
Allows use of WFPO, Watershed
Rehabilitation, and Emergency
Watershed Protection program
funds to provide technical assistance
through the Agricultural
Conservation Experienced Services
(ACES) program, a part-time
employment program for retirees
(§786).
Water Bank. Provides $4.0 mil ion
No comparable provision.
Same as FY2021 enacted (§750).
for the Water Bank program (§749).
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FY2021
FY2022
Enacted, P.L. 116-260
House-passed, H.R. 4502
Senate-reported, S. 2599
Wetland Mitigation Banking.
No comparable provision.
Same as FY2021 enacted (§753).
Allocates $5.0 mil ion for farm bil
mitigation banks. Prioritizes areas
with a significant number of
individual wetlands and conservation
compliance requests (§763).
Office of Urban Agriculture and
Similar language but moved under
Similar language but moved under
Innovative Production. Allocates
Conservation Operations line and
Conservation Operations line and
$7.0 mil ion for establishing the office increased to $9.5 million—see
increased to $8.0 mil ion—see
within NRCS (§754).
above (Title II).
above (Title II).
Source: Prepared by CRS from P.L. 116-260; H.R. 4502, Division B; and S. 2599.
Note: These policy changes are relevant only for the fiscal year cited.
Beyond the text of an appropriations act, the explanatory statement accompanying the final
appropriations—and the House and Senate report language that generally accompanies the
committee-reported bills—may provide policy instructions. These documents do not have the
force of law but often explain congressional intent, which Congress expects the agencies to
observe. The committee reports and explanatory statement may need to be read together to
capture all of the congressional intent for a given fiscal year.
Table 4 includes conservation policy provisions in report language that direct specific funding
levels. Table 5 includes provisions that direct policy but not necessarily a specific amount of
funding. The tables are divided by general programs, accounts, or themes. The majority of
provisions are located under NRCS, but some are located under FSA or CCC within the reports.
Table 4. Selected Conservation Policy Provisions Directing Funding Amounts in
FY2021 and FY2022 Appropriations Explanatory Statements
FY2021
FY2022
Explanatory Statement for Div. House-reported H.Rept. 117-82 Senate-reported S.Rept. 117-
A of P.L. 116-260
34
Soil Surveys Program
Directs $79.4 mil ion of
Similar to FY2021 but increases
Similar to FY2021 but increases
Conservation Operations (CO) to
amount to $84.4 mil ion of CO to
amount to $84.5 mil ion of CO to
the program.
the program.
the program.
Directs $1.0 mil ion of the Soil
Similar to FY2021 but moved under
No comparable provision.
Surveys Program to the Soil Health
CTA and increases to $2.0 mil ion.
Initiative linking soil health and
A separate entry directs $1.0
cover crop management.
mil ion for the Initiative with
additional requirements and
directions.
Directs $3.8 mil ion to maintain
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
relevant soil survey, including on
federal and tribal lands, and
encourages the Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) to
study the impact of grazing, wildfire,
recreation, and invasive species on
soil.
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FY2021
FY2022
Explanatory Statement for Div. House-reported H.Rept. 117-82 Senate-reported S.Rept. 117-
A of P.L. 116-260
34
Snow Survey and Water Forecasting Program
Directs $9.5 mil ion of CO to the
Similar to FY2021 but increases
Similar to FY2021 but increases
program.
amount to $14.5 mil ion.
amount to $16.5 mil ion.
Plant Materials Centers
Directs $9.5 mil ion of CO to the
Similar to FY2021 but increases
Same as FY2021.
centers.
amount to $11.5 mil ion.
Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
Directs $734.3 mil ion of CO to
Similar to FY2021 but increases
Similar to FY2021 but increases
CTA.
amount to $759.8 mil ion.
amount to $784.8 mil ion.
Directs $2.5 mil ion of CTA to the
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
farmers.gov Customer Experience
Portal.
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $3.0 mil ion of CTA for soil
testing and remediation.
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $8.0 mil ion of CTA for
USDA Climate Hubs.
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $12.0 mil ion of CTA for
climate smart agriculture.
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $20.0 mil ion of CTA for
Grazing Lands Conservation
Initiative. $16.0 mil ion of which is
required to be used for competitive
grants and $2.0 mil ion for a
cooperative agreement with the
National Grazing Lands Coalition.
Feral Hog Fencing
No comparable provision
Directs $5.0 mil ion of CO for a
Similar to House report but does
cost-share program for the
not include a funding amount.
construction and repair of
perimeter fencing.
Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)
No comparable provision.
Directs $10.0 mil ion of CO for
No comparable provision.
HFRP.
Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Program
$7.0 mil ion provided in bil text as
Directs $9.5 mil ion of CO for the
Directs $8.0 mil ion of CO for the
a general provision. Not included in
program. Included in bil text and
program. Included in bil text and
report language.
report language. Supports increased report language.
staffing and grants to historically
underserved communities.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Program
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $15.0 mil ion of CO to
establish a NFWF Working Lands
Resilience Program.
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FY2021
FY2022
Explanatory Statement for Div. House-reported H.Rept. 117-82 Senate-reported S.Rept. 117-
A of P.L. 116-260
34
Earmarks
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $19.6 mil ion of CO for
congressionally directed projects.
No comparable provision.
No comparable provision.
Directs $23.3 mil ion of WFPO for
congressionally directed projects.
Source: Prepared by CRS. For FY2021, see the explanatory statement for FY2021 Agriculture appropriations in
U.S. Congress, House Committee on Appropriations, H.R. 133/P.L. 116-260, committee print, 117th Cong., 1st
sess., March 2021, H.Cmte.Print 43-749, Book I (Washington, DC: GPO, 2021), at https://www.congress.gov/
committee-print/117th-congress/house-committee-print/43749; for FY2022, see H.Rept. 117-82 (accompanying
H.R. 4356) and S.Rept. 117-34 (accompanying S. 2599).
Notes: These policy provisions clarify congressional intent for the specific fiscal year cited. The explanatory
statement that accompanies the final FY2021 appropriation indicates that unless otherwise noted, the House
report language (H.Rept. 116-446, accompanying H.R. 7610) carries the same weight as language in the
explanatory statement. Therefore, a notation of “no comparable provision” in the enacted column does not
vacate a described provision. Rather, the FY2021 House report and explanatory statement should be read
together to capture all of the congressional intent for the fiscal year. For additional information on the programs
identified in this table, see CRS Report R40763, Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs.
Table 5. Summary of Selected Conservation Policy Provisions in FY2021 and FY2022
Appropriations Explanatory Statements
(E = FY2021 explanatory statement; H = FY2022 House report; S = FY2022 Senate report)
E H S
Programs, Accounts, and Themes



Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

✔ Encourages USDA to revise the draft programmatic environmental assessment for CRP to allow
dryland agriculture uses on Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) acres.

✔ Encourages USDA to enrol CRP acres in State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices.


✔ Directs the USDA to amend CRP policies and practices to permit current and future participants to
plant but not harvest agricultural commodity crops as wildlife food plots on up to 10% of the
enrol ed land.



Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

✔ Urges the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop EQIP guidance with input
from selected irrigation and land management organizations in the southwestern United States.


Directs NRCS to use EQIP to support manure management, col aborate with other federal
agencies, and report to Congress.


✔ Encourages USDA to support implementation of energy efficiency projects under EQIP.



Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)


Encourages the creation of “climate change mitigation” bundles within CSP.



Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
✔ ✔ ✔ Directs NRCS to maintain select critical conservation areas under RCPP, leverage resources to
achieve the goals of the 2015 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan, and provide additional CTA funds to RCPP
to address planning backlogs. House does not include reference to the 2015 Gulf Hypoxia Action
Plan, while Senate does not include selected critical conservation areas.



Conservation Compliance
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E H S
Programs, Accounts, and Themes

✔ Encourages USDA to use a one-to-one acre ratio for wetlands mitigation requirements.



Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO)


Provides direction on technical assistance for WFPO projects.


✔ Directs NRCS to provide greater flexibility for WFPO technical assistance.



Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) and Conservation Practices


Encourages the development of conservation practices for small farmers related to “sustainable
farming methods.”


Directs NRCS to increase support for grazing lands technical service.


✔ Directs NRCS to report to Congress total technical assistance funding for the previous 3 years.


✔ Urges NRCS to reevaluate Technical Service Providers matching requirements.



Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production


Supports the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Project and encourages USDA to
promote composting and reduce food waste.


Encourages the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to col aborate with other
agencies and develop farmers markets.


Encourages the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to support vertical farming.



Program Administration and Operations


Directs NRCS to report to Congress on program duplication identified in Inspector General
reports.


Encourages NRCS to review and align conservation program delivery timelines with legislatively
mandated timelines.


Requires a report on the impact of customer data systems on staff efficiency.


Encourages NRCS to use the Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program to enhance outreach.


Encourages NRCS to continue working with Resource Conservation and Development Councils.


✔ Requires USDA to utilize youth or conservation corps for projects on public lands.


✔ Directs NRCS to implement cooperative agreements with organizations that support the lesser-
prairie chicken and carbon sequestration programs.



Soil Health

✔ Encourages USDA to dedicate more CTA funding to measuring and testing carbon levels, healthy
soil planning, and soil carbon sequestration planning.


Directs NRCS to analyze the feasibility of evaluating watershed and cropland projects under the
Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).


Encourages the expansion of National Resources Inventory (NRI) to include soil sampling and
analysis.


Encourages the continued support of selected practices and soil health demonstration projects
related to regenerative agriculture.


Encourages soil carbon measuring, monitoring, and modeling be added to the Soil Surveys Program.



Water Quality and Quantity

✔ Directs NRCS to give priority to areas with major drought response plans, agreements, or
programs designed to result in conservation of surface water or groundwater.
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E H S
Programs, Accounts, and Themes


Supports and directs funding to reduce nutrient loading that can contribute to Harmful Algal
Blooms (HAB) growth.


✔ Encourages NRCS to implement innovative drought resiliency and mitigation practices for irrigation.



Wildlife


Supports the Sage Grouse Initiative.


Encourages the development of affordable, regional pol inator seed mixes.


✔ Directs NRCS to strengthen and expand the Working Lands for Wildlife program.



Climate Change


Encourages NRCS to support and publicize the COMET-Farm Tool.



Geographically Specific Provisions


Encourages continuation of the Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative in Minnesota, Iowa,
Wisconsin, and Il inois.


Encourages select flood mitigation measures in the Great Lakes region.


Encourages NRCS to work with local, state, and federal agencies in the Western Lake Erie Basin.


Urges USDA to participate in developing a Mississippi River restoration and resiliency strategy.
Source: Compiled by CRS. For FY2021, see the explanatory statement for FY2021 agriculture appropriations in
H.Cmte.Print 43-749, Book I, at https://www.congress.gov/committee-print/117th-congress/house-committee-
print/43749; for FY2022, see H.Rept. 117-82 (accompanying H.R. 4356) and S.Rept. 117-34 (accompanying S.
2599).
Notes: A ✔ denotes the provision’s location. E = Explanatory statement for FY2021 agriculture appropriation;
H = H.Rept. 117-82; and S = S.Rept. 117-34. These policy provisions clarify congressional intent for the specific
fiscal year cited. The explanatory statement accompanying the final FY2021 appropriation indicates that unless
otherwise noted, the House report language (H.Rept. 116-446, accompanying H.R. 7610) carries the same
weight as language in the explanatory statement. Therefore, no ✔ in the enacted column (E) does not vacate a
described provision. Rather, the FY2021 House report and explanatory statement should be read together to
capture all of the congressional intent for the fiscal year. For additional information on the programs identified in
this table, see CRS Report R40763, Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs. COMET-Farm refers to the
NRCS online carbon and greenhouse gas accounting tool, which can be accessed at http://comet-farm.com/
Home.

Author Information

Megan Stubbs

Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural
Resources Policy

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