Agriculture Conservation Programs: A Scorecard

This report provides basic information on several agriculture conservation programs, primarily drawn from agency budget presentations and websites, about each program using a consistent format. This information should help respond to basic questions and resolve many common sources of confusion about the purposes of the program, program participation and policy topics.

Order Code RL32940 Agriculture Conservation Programs: A Scorecard Updated May 9, 2008 Tadlock Cowan Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development Policy Resources, Science, and Industry Division Renée Johnson Analyst in Agricultural Policy Resources, Science, and Industry Division Agriculture Conservation Programs: A Scorecard Summary The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently administer 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs have all grown with each recent farm bill. This growth can cause confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance. Policy responses to this proliferation of programs are likely to be seen in the forthcoming omnibus farm bill. The programs are: ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Agricultural Management Assistance Program Conservation Operations; Technical Assistance (CTA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) CRP — Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) CRP — Farmable Wetlands Program Conservation Security Program Emergency Conservation Program Emergency Watershed Program Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) EQIP — Innovative Grants EQIP — Ground and Surface Water Conservation EQIP — Klamath River Basin Farm and Ranchland Protection Program Grassland Reserve Program Resource Conservation and Development Program Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Watershed Rehabilitation Program Watershed Surveys and Planning Wetland Reserve Program Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. The information about each program includes: ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! brief program description; national participation levels; states with the greatest participation; participation priorities specified in law; FY2008 estimated spending; FY2009 Administration budget request; authorization expiration date; backlog or other measures of continuing interest; major amendments in the 2002 farm bill; and statutory authority. This report will be updated periodically. Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Conservation Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Agricultural Management Assistance Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Conservation Operations (CO) — Technical Assistance (CTA) . . . . . . . . . 4 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 CRP — Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) . . . . . . . . . . 6 CRP — Farmable Wetlands Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Conservation Security Program (CSP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Emergency Conservation Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Emergency Watershed Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 EQIP — Innovative Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 EQIP — Ground and Surface Water Conservation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 EQIP — Klamath River Basin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Grassland Reserve Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Resource Conservation and Development Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Watershed Rehabilitation Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Watershed Surveys and Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Wetland Reserve Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Agriculture Conservation Programs: A Scorecard Introduction The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer 20 programs and subprograms that directly or indirectly provide technical and financial assistance to producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands.1 With each recent farm bill, enacted in 1985, 1990, 1996, and 2002, Congress has responded to the potential adverse effects of agricultural activities on the physical landscape by increasing the number, scope, and overall funding of conservation programs. Reorganizing these programs to reduce the total number by combining similar programs is a likely outcome in the forthcoming omnibus farm bill.2 One result of the growth of conservation programs since 1985 is that these programs now attract attention from groups and individuals that had not necessarily had an interest in conservation policy, and may be confused about which problems and conditions each program addresses and specific program characteristics and performance. These people often ask questions about which programs may be used to respond to a specific resource problem, why several programs appear to address a single problem, or which agency administers a program. USDA provides technical and cost share assistance to attract interest and encourage participation. Participation in all USDA conservation programs is voluntary. These programs protect soil, water, wildlife, and other natural resources on privately owned agricultural lands to limit environmental impacts of production activities both on and off the farm, while maintaining or improving production of food and fiber. Some of these programs center on improving or restoring resources 1 The number of programs can be determined in several different ways, as two of the larger ones, the Conservation Reserve and the Environmental Quality Reserve Programs have several subprograms, some created in legislation and others created by administrative action. This report is limited to subprograms created by Congress. In addition to these 20 programs, Congress has authorized a large number of other small (in terms of spending levels) discretionary programs, usually with a specific geographic focus (examples from the 2002 farm bill include the Great Lakes and the Delmarva Peninsula), and programs that have never been funded or implemented (examples include the Environmental Easement Program and the Office of Agriculture Environmental Quality). These programs are not identified or presented in this report. 2 This is an updated and revised edition of a report originally written by Jeffrey A. Zinn, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy, Resources, Sciences, and Industry Division and Tadlock Cowan. CRS-2 that have been degraded, while others create conditions to will limit degradation in the future. Of the 20 programs, 16 are administered by NRCS and four are administered by FSA. However, both agencies, as well as other agencies, mostly in USDA, work closely to implement many of them. All of these programs, with the exception of the Conservation Security Program (CSP), respond to existing resource problems. Some of them address these problems by paying landowners to retire land from production for multi-year periods, using easements and long-term agreements. Many programs also have a particular resource focus, such as cropland, wetlands, or grasslands, or focus on a specific physical condition, such as floods or drought. Others address problems by assisting producers in installing conservation practices that are designed to maintain or improve resource conditions in ways that enhance the environmental and economic performance of a farm. These practices may be structural (e.g., constructing terraces or an animal waste management facility), land management (e.g., contour farming, nutrient management), or vegetative (e.g., filter strips, tree planting). The CSP is different because it pays producers to maintain conservation practices that are already in place and provides financial incentives and technical assistance to expand on their conservation efforts. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) each include subprograms enacted by Congress (as well as other initiatives based on administrative actions). For the CRP, those subprograms are the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), the Farmable Wetlands Program, and the new Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program (FSA began implementing this program in 2007, enacted in December 2005 in P.L. 109148; it is not included in this report). Acreage enrolled in these subprograms is considered to be within the CRP, and therefore counts against the current overall program enrollment cap of 39.2 million acres. The three EQIP subprograms address development of innovative approaches to conservation, surface and groundwater conservation, and water use challenges in the Klamath River basin. The innovative grants subprogram is funded using a portion of the overall annual funding authorized for EQIP, while the water conservation and Klamath River subprograms have specified funding levels that are treated as being in addition to EQIP funding. This report provides basic information, primarily drawn from agency budget presentations and websites, about each program using a consistent format. This information should help respond to basic questions and resolve many common sources of confusion about the purposes of the program, program participation and policy topics. Further information about all of these programs can be found on the NRCS website at [http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/] and on the “conservation programs” page of the FSA website at [http://www.fsa.usda.gov]; and in written responses to questions published later each year in hearing records of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Both NRCS and FSA post extensive information on most programs on their website in several formats, including basic descriptions, questions and answers, and charts, tables, and maps that show participation and other characteristics. Website information appears to be designed for both program participants and others who want to learn more about the programs. The appropriations records provide more detailed information about program activities and accomplishments during the past CRS-3 year, and anticipated adjustments to program administration or implementation in the next year. While the programs are listed alphabetically in this report, they are listed by size in the table below, based on USDA’s estimated available spending levels in 2008, to convey a sense of their relative magnitude. The estimated total for these 20 conservation programs in FY2008 is $4.961 billion. Program FY2008 Est. Spending (in millions) Program FY2008 Est. Spending (in millions) 1. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) $1,759 11. EQIP — Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program $60 2. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) $1,000 12. Resource Conservation & Development Program $52 3. Conservation Operations; Technical Assistance $712 13. Watershed Rehabilitation Program $22 4. Wetland Reserve Program $455 14. CRP — Farmable Wetlands Program $21 5. Conservation Security Program $381 15. Agricultural Management Assistance Program $10 6. CRP — Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program $139 16. EQIP — Innovative Grants Program 7. Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program $97 17. Emergency Watershed Program 8. Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program $85 18. Grassland Reserve Program $0 9. Emergency Conservation Program $75 19. EQIP — Klamath River Basin $0 10. Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations $67 20. Water Surveys and Planning $0 Up to $20 (from EQIP) $4.6 A majority of the programs, 14, are mandatory spending, funded through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. Congress authorizes mandatory programs at specified funding levels each year (or acreage enrollment levels for the Conservation Reserve, Wetlands Reserve, and Grasslands Reserve Programs). They are funded at these levels unless Congress limits funding to a lower amount through the appropriations or legislative process (or puts a ceiling on acreage that can be enrolled). Discretionary programs are funded each year through the annual appropriations process. In recent years, Congress generally has made more significant adjustments (almost always reductions) in funding for discretionary programs than for mandatory programs from year to year. If one is interested in learning more about how to apply to participate any of these programs, a good place to start is the local NRCS or FSA county offices, which are usually co-located. For more general information about the programs over a larger area, such as program priorities within a state, one should contact the state CRS-4 office of the agency. Contact information at the state level for both agencies can be found on the agency website, at the addresses identified above. Conservation Programs Agricultural Management Assistance Program Program description This mandatory program, administered by the NRCS, provides cost-sharing assistance under contracts of 3 to 10 years to producers in 15 specified states where participation in the federal crop insurance program has been historically low. Producers use this assistance to construct or improve water management and irrigation structures, plant trees, control soil erosion, practice integrated pest management, practice organic farming, develop value-added processing, and enter into futures, hedging, or options contracts to reduce production, price or revenue risk. National participation Not applicable. Eligible states are: CT, DE, MD, MA, ME, NV, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, UT, VT, WV, and WY. Leading states In FY07, NRCS allocated $5 million to accelerate implementation of contracts. Currently, 1,119 contracts are being implemented. Participation priorities Uses listed in law (see program description), but no priorities are specified. FY2008 spending (est.) $10.0 million. FY2009 Administration request $0 ($10 million authorized) Authorization expires Permanent authorization ($10 million annually after FY07). Backlog/interest A backlog of 263 applications was pending at the end of FY07, down from a backlog of 892 applications in FY05. These contracts would enroll more than 6,583 acres at a cost of $2.1 million. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Designated 15 eligible states; authorized funding of $20 million annually from FY03 through FY07, and $10 million in subsequent years. Statutory authority Authorized in the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, title I, §133 (P.L. 106224) as §524(b) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act; amended by §2501 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (7 U.S.C. 1524). Conservation Operations (CO) — Technical Assistance (CTA) Program description CTA is a discretionary NRCS program. It is more than 80% of all spending in the CO account, and funds technical support to provide conservation planning and implementation assistance through field staff placed in almost all counties. This assistance is provided to producers and land owners who voluntarily apply natural resource conservation systems, consisting of one or more practices, on private and other non-federal lands. (Other components of CO include the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, soil surveys, snow surveys, and plant material centers.) National participation CTA is estimated at $735.5 million and 6,096 staff years for FY08, according to the FY09 budget notes. (Total CO funding was $861.5 million and 7,094 staff years.) Leading states No data published for the CTA subset in FY08, but for total CO funding, TX received $46.9 million, CA received $21.3 million, and IA received $24.4 million. CRS-5 Participation priorities None specified in law. The NRCS program description in the FY0 budget notes, states, in part, “The natural resource conservation systems help control erosion, improve water, soil, and air quality, protect farmlands and other land uses that support wildlife habitat, and cultivate partnerships among federal, state and local entities to implementing conservation measures.” NRCS national priorities in FY07 included reducing soil erosion, assisting producers with comprehensive nutrient management programs, reducing non-point pollution and ground water contamination, reducing air emissions and soil erosion, and promoting habitat conservation. FY2008 spending (est.) $735.5 million. FY2009Administration request $680.8 million. Authorization expires Permanent authorization, no amount specified. Backlog/interest None specified. Major 2002 farm bill amendments No direct changes. However, other provisions affect this program, including retaining a cap on total funding for technical assistance provided through mandatory programs, and allowing NRCS to approve qualified individuals and entities, referred to as third parties, to provide some types of technical assistance. Statutory authority Authorized in the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, as amended (P.L. 74-46). (16 U.S.C. 590a-g, 16 U.S.C. 590q) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Program description The CRP is a mandatory program administered by FSA, assisted by NRCS, that provides annual rental payments, usually over 10 years, to producers to replace crops on highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land with long-term resource conserving plantings. Bids to enroll land are solicited during a limited time period, then compared using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). Those with the highest EBI scores are accepted. Imbedded in the CRP are several small and more focused programs that bypass the general bidding process, some established in law and others established administratively, to address specific resource topics, including more concentrated resource problems in a portion of a state, protection of small isolated agricultural wetlands, and improvement of habitat for upland game birds. All lands that qualify for these subprograms are automatically accepted. National participation 760,875active contracts on 427,263 farms are currently enrolling 34.7 million acres, according to FSA’s March 2008 monthly program summary. There was no general sign-up in FY2007 and FY2008. Leading states In terms of acres, the leading states are TX (3.94 million acres), MT (3.31 million acres), and ND (3.03 million acres). In terms of contracts, the leading states are IA (106,069 contracts), IL (78,734 contracts), and MN (62,626 contracts). Participation priorities None specified in law from among the many types of eligible land that are identified. Priorities established by FSA using an EBI which rates 5 factors (erosion, water quality, wildlife, air quality, and enduring benefits) plus cost when deciding which bids will be accepted. The EBI has been modified from signup to signup. States may ask the Secretary to designate conservation priority areas in watersheds. Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and Long Island Sound are specified as possibilities because of “special environmental sensitivity.” FY2008 spending (est.) $1.759 billion (based on the estimated number of acres that will be enrolled). Program authorized on calendar year basis. CRS-6 FY2009 Administration request $1.854 billion (based on the estimated number of acres that will be enrolled and includes the emergency forestry program). Program authorized on calendar year basis. Authorization expires December 31, 2007. Both House and Senate farm bills would reauthorize the program, although the cap of 39.2 million acres is expected to be reduced. Backlog/interest In the last general signup (8/30/04 - 9/24/04), FSA accepted 19,732 offers to enroll 1.19 million acres from 26,080 offers to enroll 1.67 million acres, according to data posted on the FSA website. Land currently under contract for the 2008 crop year, 34.7 million acres is down 2.1 million acres from last year’s 36.8 million acres. States with the largest decline are North Dakota and South Dakota, with declines of 362,000 acres and 264,000 acres, respectively). Results of FY07 re-enrollment and extension (REX) offer for general sign-up contracts originally set to expire between 2007 and 2010 show contracts on 23.0 million acres. 83% of the 27.8 million eligible acres will be extended or re-enrolled under new contracts. The new contract expiration schedule shows that 2.6 million acres expired September 30, 2007, some of which have been re-enrolled as continuous sign-up contracts. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Raised enrollment ceiling from 36.4 million acres to 39.2 million acres; liberalized economic uses of enrolled lands; required that eligible land must have been planted 4 of the 6 years preceding enactment. Statutory authority Authorized in §1231-§1235 of the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L.99-198); amended by §2101 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3831-3835a) CRP — Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Program description This subprogram of the CRP is a mandatory program administered by the FSA, assisted by NRCS, that partners with states at their request. States propose substate areas, such as a watershed, where environmental or resource concerns are more concentrated and can be addressed by enrolling up to 100,000 acres. States contribute 20% of the funding so that larger payments can be made, thereby encouraging greater participation. National participation 46,681 contracts on 31,148 farms have enrolling a total of 790.705 acres, according to FSA’s March 2008 monthly program summary. Leading states Currently, 32 states participate, with 195,759 acres enrolled in PA, 127,134 acres enrolled in IL, and 92,244 acres in OH. The most contracts are in PA (10,343), followed by OH (9,9551), and IL (6,635). Participation priorities None specified beyond those that apply to the general CRP (see entry above). FY2008 spending (est.) $139 million FY2009 Administration request Unspecified acreage subset of CRP. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. Both House and Senate farm bills would reauthorized the program. Backlog/interest Not applicable since any eligible land can be enrolled at any time; participation has been much higher in some states than in others, but that is due, reportedly, to how the program is promoted. Average rental payments are higher than for acreage under the general sign-up process. CRS-7 Major 2002 farm bill amendments None. Statutory authority Authorized in §1231of the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L.99-198); amended by §2101 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3831) CRP — Farmable Wetlands Program Program description This 1 million acre subprogram of the CRP is a mandatory program administered by the FSA, assisted by NRCS, to enroll small isolated agricultural wetlands. Eligible wetlands must be smaller than 10 acres, with a maximum of 5 acres eligible for payments. Eligible lands include wetlands that were cropped 3 of the preceding 10 years, and buffers sufficient to protect them, on which the hydrology will be restored and a vegetative cover established. National participation 11,555 contracts on 9,208 farms have enrolled a total of 179,793 acres, according to FSA’s March 2008 monthly program summary. Leading states In terms of acres, the leading states are IA (73,242 acres), SD (42,618 acres), and MN (39,528 acres). The largest number of contracts are in IA (4,558), followed by MN (2,886) and SD (2,513). Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $21 million FY2009 Administration request Unspecified acreage subset of CRP. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. Backlog/interest Not applicable since any eligible land can be enrolled at any time; participation has been much higher in some states than in others, but that is due, reportedly, to how the program is promoted. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Increase overall size from 500,000 acres in 6 specified states to 1 million acre national program, with no more than 100,000 acres in a state; in accepting contracts, “ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, an equitable balance among the conservation purposes of soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat.” Statutory authority Authorized in Title XI of Agriculture and Related Agency appropriations, 2001 (P.L. 106-387) as §1231 of the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L.99-198); amended by §2101 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3831) CRS-8 Conservation Security Program (CSP) Program description This mandatory funded program administered by NRCS provides financial and technical assistance for improvements in conserving environmental resources on farmland that meets soil and water quality criteria standards of NRCS. CSP supports producers who are already implementing and maintaining substantial conservation systems to protect soil, water, air, and wildlife, or who will adopt more sustainable systems as part of the program. The maximum annual assistance through CSP increases with each of 3 progressive tiers of participation, each requiring greater conservation. Only producers in specified watersheds can participate each year. CSP was initially implemented in 18 watersheds in FY04, and the number of watersheds eligible in subsequent signups has been determined by the amount of funding available. National participation Three sign-ups (FY04, FY05, FY06) in 298 watersheds resulted in a total of 19,323 contracts on 15.7 million acres: 2,188 contracts on 1.88 million acres in 18 watersheds for FY04; 12,787 contracts on 10.24 million acres in 220 watersheds in FY05; 4,423 contracts on 3.6 million acres in FY06. There were no sing-ups in FY07. A new sign-up on 51 new watersheds runs to May 2008. Leading watersheds (states) The largest number of contracts (281) and enrolled acres (152,388) from the FY04 signup were in the Blue Earth Watershed (IA and MN), and the largest total payment ($5.173 million) was in the Umatilla Watershed (OR). For FY05, the largest number of contracts were in IA (1,970), the largest number of enrolled acres are in OR (977,026 acres), and the largest total payment is in OR ($15.7 million). For the FY06 sign-up, Oklahoma had the largest number of contracts (440), and Nebraska had the largest acreage (320,894) and largest payment ($5.0 million). Participation priorities None specified in law. NRCS gives a priority to watersheds where agricultural runoff is a major source of pollution. FY2008 spending (est.) $381.7 million. (Current law limits total CSP spending to $1.954 billion for FY06 through FY10, and $5.650 billion for FY06 through FY14.) FY2009 Administration request $360 million. Authorization expires September 30, 2011. Senate farm bill would create a new “Conservation Stewardship Program.” House bill would authorize a “New Conservation Security Program.” Backlog/interest There have been three sign-ups in 298 watersheds. A new sign-up will run until May 2008 and encompass 51 new watersheds. In eligible watersheds, all working farmland can be enrolled, regardless of crop grown. There are no data on the NRCS website on applicants in eligible watersheds who were rejected. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Program initially authorized in Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 as an entitlement (spending has been capped in subsequent legislation). Statutory authority Authorized in §2001 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) as §1238-§1238C of the Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L.99-198). (16 U.S.C. 3833-3838c) CRS-9 Emergency Conservation Program Program description This discretionary program, administered by FSA, with technical assistance provided by NRCS, provides emergency funding and technical assistance to producers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, wind, and erosion are examples) by activities such as removing debris, and by implementing emergency water conservation measures in response to severe droughts. National participation Participation varies widely and unpredictably from year to year. In FY2005, more than half the outlays were in response to hurricanes, with the remainder being divided among other types of natural disasters. Funds went to 46 states and territories in FY07. Amounts are often earmarked to specific locations. Leading states In FY07, FL received $17.6 million, MN received $14.8 million and TX received $6.6 million, according to the FY09 budget notes. Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $74.7 million (Since this program is almost always funded in emergency supplemental appropriations legislation in response to specific natural disasters that have occurred, additional funding is possible before 9/30/08.) FY2009 Administration request $0. The Administration’s farm bill proposal would combine this program and the Emergency Watershed Protection program into a new Emergency Landscape Restoration Program. Authorization expires Permanent authorization. Backlog/interest Not applicable. Major 2002 farm bill amendments None. Statutory authority Authorized in the Emergency Conservation Measures (P.L. 85-88); amended by §401 of the Agriculture Credit Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-334). (16 U.S.C. 2201-2204) Emergency Watershed Program Program description This discretionary program, administered by NRCS, provides technical and financial assistance to reduce hazards to life and property in watersheds that have been damaged by natural disasters. Assistance includes disaster cleanup and recovery activities, and purchasing easements in flood plains that will benefit natural resources such as wetlands, while reducing the risk of exposure to future natural disasters. National participation In FY05, $354.5 million was distributed in 38 states. In FY06, Congress appropriated two supplementals totaling $351 million for the 2005 hurricane recovery efforts. Leading states In FY07, KS received $3.6 million, MO received $3 million, and OK received $4 million, according to the FY09 budget notes. (Spending responds to the distribution of natural disasters, and changes greatly from year to year.) Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) An FY07 supplemental appropriated $10.7 million. $0 funding is estimated for FY08. Since this program is almost always funded in emergency supplemental appropriations additional legislation in response to specific natural disasters is possible before 9/30/08. CRS-10 FY2009 Administration request $0. The Administration’s farm bill proposal would combine this program and the Emergency Conservation Program into a new Emergency Landscape Restoration Program Authorization expires Permanent authorization. Backlog/interest Not applicable. Major 2002 farm bill amendments None. Statutory authority Authorized in the Emergency Conservation Measures (P.L. 85-88); amended by §402 - §403 of the Agriculture Credit Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-334). (16 U.S.C. 2202-2204) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS and funded by the Commodity Credit Corporations, , provides cost share payments to producers and land owners to plan and install structural, vegetative, and land management practices on eligible lands to alleviate conservation problems, with 60% of the funds targeted to livestock producers. EQIP is to be administered in an environmentally-beneficial and cost-effective manner. National participation In FY07, EQIP allocated $1.005 billion for 41,700 contracts covering 17.1 million acres, according to data in the FY09 budget notes. Leading states In FY07, the most contracts were signed in TX (5,099), followed by MS (2,367) and NE (1,712). The largest allocation was paid to TX ($89.1 million), followed by CA ($62.1 million) and CO ($40.2 million). Participation priorities The law states that applications that encourage cost-effective conservation practices or address national conservation priorities are to be given greater consideration. Also, in determining the amount and rate of incentive payments, practices that promote residue, nutrient, pest, invasive species or air quality management may be accorded “great significance.” Current priorities are reducing non-point pollution, conserving ground and surface water, improving air quality, reducing soil erosion, and promoting at-risk habitat conservation. FY2008 spending (est.) $1.0 billion. FY2009 Administration request $1.050 billion. Administration’s farm bill proposal calls for a revised EQIP program and streamlines existing water conservation programs into a new Regional Water Enhancement Program. Funding for EQIP would be increased by $4.25 billion FY2002-2017. Authorization expires September 30, 2010. Backlog/interest In FY07, 41,700 contracts were accepted and the remaining 40,535 applications went unfunded. The total estimated cost to eliminate this backlog would be $865 million. The most unfunded applications were submitted in OK (3,772), followed by TX (3,078). In terms of cost, the largest amount was in MT ($55.7 million), followed by CA ($55.1 million), according to information in the FY09 budget notes. CRS-11 Major 2002 farm bill amendments Specified that the goals of EQIP are to “promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals, and to optimize environmental benefits...”; allowed cost sharing with large confined livestock operations for waste management facilities (which had previously been prohibited); limited payments to a total of $450,000; authorized competitive innovative matching grants; allocated 60% of funding each year to practices related to livestock production. Statutory authority Authorized in subtitle D of Title III (§331-336) of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127) as §1240-§1240I of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L.97-198); amended by §2301 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3839aa - 3839aa90) EQIP — Innovative Grants Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, awards competitive grants to state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribes, and individuals to implement conservation. The program was implemented in FY04. Examples of eligible projects identified in the 2002 farm bill include “market systems for pollution reduction” and “innovative conservation practices, including the storing of carbon in the soil.” National participation In FY04, 41 recipients received a total of $14.3 million, and in FY05, 103 recipients received a total of $22.1 million. Up to $20 million was made available for awards in FY06, with $5 million of the total again going to the Chesapeake Bay watershed states. For FY07, up to $20 million was made available and 52 awards were made. Leading states Not applicable. Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) Unspecified subset of EQIP. In FY08, up to $15 million is available for natural resource concerns, up to $5 million is available for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and up to $5 million is available for technology. FY2009 Administration request Unspecified subset of EQIP. For the past 4 years, approximately $20 million of EQIP’s CCC funding has been available for the grants program. Administration’s farm bill proposal would increase funding to $100 million annually. Authorization expires September 30, 2010. Backlog/interest None identified. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Program initially authorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Statutory authority Authorized in §2301 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) as §1240H of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 97-198). (16 U.S.C. 3839aa8) EQIP — Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, funds contracts with producers to improve irrigation and water use efficiency on irrigated cropland, and reduce water consumption on agricultural operations in areas severely affected by drought. This program is available only for conservation measures that “results in a net savings in groundwater or surface water resources in the agricultural operation...” CRS-12 National participation Not applicable. A total of 32 states located either over the high plains aquifer or severely impacted by drought received funds to implement EQIP contracts to “improve irrigation and water use efficiency on currently irrigated cropland.” In FY07, producers entered into 2,072 contracts on approximately 354,000 acres to improve irrigation and water use efficiency on irrigated cropland. Leading states States receiving the largest obligations in FY07 were CA ($11.5 million), TX ($6.7 million), and NE ($6.1 million). Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) ($60 million authorized, to be in addition to overall EQIP funding). FY2009Administration request Administration’s farm bill proposal calls for a revised EQIP program and streamlines existing water conservation programs into a new Regional Water Enhancement Program (RWEP). In addition to cost-share funds under EQIP, the RWEP would add $175 million annually to coordinate and fund large-scale water conservation projects. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. House and Senate farm bills would modify the program and increase authorized funding. Backlog/interest None identified. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Program initially authorized in Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Statutory authority Authorized in §2301 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) as §1240I of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 97-198). (16 U.S.C. 3839aa9) EQIP — Klamath River Basin Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, focuses on improving the efficiency of water use associated with agricultural operations in the Klamath River basin of OR and CA. National participation Not applicable as program operates only in portions of OR and CA. Leading states In FY07, CA received $3.7 million and OR received $4.0 million. Funds in FY07 and in pervious years were used to complete irrigation management plans on 37,209 acres and to apply conservation practices on 84,497 acres. Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $0. Authorized at $50 million FY02-FY07. FY2009 Administration request $0. Administration’s farm bill proposal calls for a revised EQIP program and streamlines existing water conservation programs into a new Regional Water Enhancement Program (RWEP). In addition to cost-share funds under EQIP, the RWEP would add $175 million annually to coordinate and fund large-scale water conservation projects, including Klamath. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. House farm bill authorizes a new Regional Water Enhancement Program that prioritizes Klamath. The Senate measure also gives priority to Klamath in its provision for a Partnerships and Cooperation Program. Backlog/interest None identified. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Program initially authorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. CRS-13 Statutory authority Authorized in §2301 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) as §1240I of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 97-198). (16 U.S.C. 3839aa9) Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, provides funds to state, tribal, and local governments, and non-governmental organizations to help them purchase conservation easements from willing sellers to limit conversion of farmland to nonagricultural uses. National participation From the program’s inception in 1996 through FY07, $511.8 million was spent to acquire 1,914 easements on 389,395 acres. Approximately 536,936 acres on 2,764 farms with an estimated easement value of $1.63 billion have or will have easement contracts in the near future, according to the FY09 budget notes. (The length of time from when a land owner first offers to sell an easement to when it is recorded with the deed to the land can be considerable.) Leading states In FY07, the largest amount has been spent in NJ ($4.7 million), followed by DE ($3.1 million), and PA ($3.0 million). The most easements have been acquired in MA and VT (33 each), followed by PA (27). The largest number of acres acquired under easement are in VT (7,486 acres), followed by KS (6,761 acres) and WY (4.229). Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $97 million. FY2009 Administration request $0. The Administration’s farm bill proposal calls for a new Private Lands Protection Program that would encompass the FRPP and invest an additional $90 million annually into the various land conservation programs. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. Backlog/interest The FY2009 budget notes state that “The demand for the program has exceeded available funds by approximately 200 percent.” Major 2002 farm bill amendments Expanded the list of eligible lands to include cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, incidental forest land, and archeological and historic sites; expanded eligibility to include Indian tribes and qualified non-profit organizations. Statutory authority Authorized in §388 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 as §1238H-§1238J of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 97-198); amended by §2503 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) (16 U.S.C. 3838i) CRS-14 Grassland Reserve Program Program description This mandatory program, jointly administered by NRCS and FSA, and working with USDA’s Forest Service, uses long-term rental agreements and easements to help land owners and producers restore and protect grasslands while maintaining them in a condition suitable for grazing using common management practices. National participation The program has enrollments in 50 states. In FY07, $3.0 million was obligated to new rental agreements in 17 states covering 76,333 acres to limited resource farmers. In addition, 47 easements were signed in Kansas protecting 22,000 acres according to the FY09 budget notes. Leading states In FY06 (the most recent data), the most approved applications were in MO (43), followed by ND (17) and OK and MN (16 each). The most acres were approved in SD (18,044 acres), followed by OK (16,033) and MT (14,314 acres). Participation priorities None identified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $0. FY2009 Administration request $0. The Administration’s farm bill proposal calls for a new Private Lands Protection Program that would encompass the GRP and invest an additional $90 million annually into the various land conservation programs. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. Backlog/interest In FY05, 7,412 applications were submitted to enroll 5.0 million acres; 1,219 applications enrolling 385,000 acres were accepted. The backlog of unfunded applications totaled more than $1.1 billion, according to the FY06 budget notes, and continued to grow. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Program initially authorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Statutory authority Authorized in §2401 of the of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) as §1238N-§1238Q of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 97-198). (16 U.S.C. 3838n - 3838q) Resource Conservation and Development Program Program description This discretionary program, administered by NRCS, provides support in the form of NRCS staff coordinators, to authorized multi-county areas. Coordinators assists state and local units of government and non-profits to develop and carry out programs to conserve and improve natural resources and the use of land, and improve conditions in rural America. National participation 375 authorized areas encompass approximately 2,693 counties, more than 85% of the national total, and more than 77% of the U.S. population, according to the FY09 budget notes. Leading states Not applicable. Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $52.3 million for technical assistance. $0 for financial assistance. FY2009 Administration request $52.3 million for technical assistance. $0 for financial assistance. A Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) judged the program “duplicative.” Authorization expires Permanent authorization of “such sums as are necessary.” CRS-15 Backlog/interest Another 38 application areas covering 231 additional counties have applied for the Secretary’s designation. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Permanently reauthorized program, and amended it in its entirety, making numerous, mostly minor or technical amendments. Statutory authority Enacted in §31 and §32 of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (P.L. 89-796); Amended in its entirety in §2504 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3451 - 3459) Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program description This discretionary program, administered by NRCS, combines two separate authorizations under which more than 11,000 structures have been built in more than 1,500 active and completed projects. The P.L. 534 Flood Prevention Operations Program authorizes 11 projects, while the P.L. 566 Small Watershed Operations Program authorizes watershed projects generally. Projects may be authorized for any of 8 purposes; almost all projects have flood control as an authorized purpose. Under P.L.566, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to plan and install projects on private lands, in cooperation with local sponsors, states, and other public agencies. The small watershed project costs are shared with local partners. Projects are limited to a maximum size, including 25,000 acre feet of total capacity and 250,000 acres in extent. Projects above a specified size require congressional committee authorization. National participation A total of 397 projects are active or completed under P.L. 534, and 1,363 are active or completed under P.L. 566, according to the FY09 budget notes. No new P.L. 566 projects were authorized for FY07. Leading states In FY06 (the latest available data), the largest allocation went to MO ($11.3 million), followed by HI ($8.0 million) and TX ($6.4 million). In FY05 (the latest data available), the greatest number of active and completed projects are in IA (179 projects encompassing 3.2 million acres), followed by TX (170 projects encompassing 23.3 million acres) and MS (166 projects encompassing 8.7 million acres). Participation priorities None specified in law. FY2008 spending (est.) $211.2 million. FY2009 Administration request $0. Authorization expires Permanent authorization, no amount specified. Backlog/interest NRCS identifies a total of $1.42 billion in unfunded federal commitments for authorized projects; the greatest value of unfunded commitments are in TX ($293 million) and OK ($234 million), according to the FY09 budget notes. Major 2002 farm bill amendments None. Statutory authority Enacted in the Flood Control Act of 1944 (P.L. 534), as amended, and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (P.L. 83-566), as amended. (33 U.S.C. 701b-1 and 16 U.S.C. 1000, et. seq.) CRS-16 Watershed Rehabilitation Program Program description This program, with funding authorized through both discretionary and mandatory funds and administered by NRCS, provides technical and financial assistance for planning, design, and implementation to rehabilitate aging watershed dam projects (including upgrading or removing dams) to communities to address health and safety concerns. Small watershed project dams have a 50-year design life, and 448 reached or exceeded that time span by the end of 2005. By the end of 2015, this number will exceed 3,800, according to the FY07 budget notes. National participation FY07 was the sixth year of funding for the program. As of September 30, 2007, a total of 160 projects have been funded in 25 states with 64 dams rehabilitated according to the FY09 budget notes. In FY07, 94 rehabilitation projects in 24 states were funded, including 26 new projects. Leading states The largest number of projects are in OK (40), MS (19), and WI and Texas (14 each); The most completed projects are in OK (15), WI (11), MS (9). Participation priorities None specified in law. The Secretary is directed to develop a system for ranking rehabilitation requests. FY2008 spending (est.) $22.3 million in discretionary funding and $0 in mandatory funding ($85 million in discretionary funding and $0 million in mandatory funding authorized). FY2009 Administration request $5.9 in discretionary funding and $65 million in mandatory funding. Funding is part of the Administration’s farm bill proposal for improving national water conservation efforts. Authorization expires Mandatory and discretionary funding expired September 30, 2007. Backlog/interest In FY07, funds were not available to address 18 additional requests for projects. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Authorized both mandatory and discretionary funding levels each year; made funding “no year” funding (meaning that discretionary funding is available until spent, rather than until the end of the fiscal year for which it is appropriated, and mandatory funding that is limited in the annual appropriations process is counted as savings each year until it is made available). 2006 reconciliation legislation (P.L. 109-171) cancelled prior year funds that were available in FY07. Statutory authority Enacted in §313 of the Grain Standards and Warehouse Improvement Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-472) as §14 of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act; as amended by §2505 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. (16 U.S.C. 1012) Watershed Surveys and Planning Program description This discretionary program, administered by NRCS, funds investigations and surveys of river basins as the basis for developing coordinated water resource programs in upstream watersheds. Plans address ways to respond to water quality, flooding, water and land management, and sedimentation problems, and are prepared in cooperation with federal, state and local agencies. National participation In FY07, $6.1 million was were provided to 39 states, according to the FY09 budget notes. Leading states In FY07, the greatest spending was in national headquarters ($991,342) followed by CA ($529,290) and WY ($461,637). Participation priorities None specified in law. Agency priorities are stated in general terms and basically restate the major missions of NRCS (erosion control and fish and wildlife concerns, for example). CRS-17 FY2008 spending (est.) $0. FY2009 Administration request $0. Authorization expires Permanent authorization, no amount specified. Backlog/interest None specified. Major 2002 farm bill amendments None. Statutory authority Enacted in §6 of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (P.L. 83566), as amended. (16 U.S.C. 1006-1009) Wetland Reserve Program Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, funds purchase of long-term agreements and easements (30 year and permanent) to assist land owners in protecting and restoring wetlands. It provides technical and financial assistance, and emphasizes restoration to original natural conditions where possible. National participation Through 2007, 1.92 million acres had been enrolled, with easements perfected on 1.58 million acres. In 2007, more than 149,000 acres were enrolled in 821 projects, at a cost of $247.8 million, according to the FY07 budget notes. Leading states In 2007, 13,528 acres were enrolled in FL, 8,669 acres were enrolled in NC, and 7,195 acres were enrolled in MS. In 2007, $49.6 million was spent in FL, $14.3 million in NC, and $19.9 million in MS, according to the NRCS website. Participation priorities Priority given to permanent easements over shorter terms, and to easements that provide greater benefits in “protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.” FY2008 spending (est.) Enrollment limited to 150,000 acres, which will cost an estimated $250.2 million. Authorized to enroll 250,000 acres annually with no annual spending limit specified (measured in calendar years). FY2009 Administration request Would reauthorize the program in the Omnibus farm bill and raise the total enrollment cap to 3.5 million acres, but maintain the fiscal year enrollment goal of 250,000 acres. The proposed increase in acreage would cost $2.125 billion over 10 years. Also proposes consolidating floodplain easement function of the Emergency Watershed Program into WRP. Authorization expires December 31, 2007. Both House and Senate farm bills propose reauthorizing the program. Backlog/interest In FY05, 3,204 unfunded easement applications would have enrolled 461,704 acres at an estimated cost of $653 million. The most applications were from AR (376), followed by MN (371). The most land was in AR (81,893 acres), followed by MN (59,276 acres). The cost of the easements was greatest in AR ($76 million), followed by IA ($62 million), according to the NRCS Website. The FY09 budget notes state that in FY2007 123 of 317 cost share applications were funded; 72 of 266 30 year agreements were funded, and 626 of 1,775 permanent easements were funded. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Increased enrollment ceiling from 1.075 million acres to 2.275 million acres in total, and 250,000 acres annually, “to the maximum extent practicable.” CRS-18 Statutory authority Enacted in §1438 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-624) as §1237 - §1237F of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 198); amended by §2201-2204 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. (16 U.S.C. 3837 - 3837c) Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program Program description This mandatory program, administered by NRCS, provides technical and financial assistance to eligible participants to develop upland and wetland wildlife, threatened and endangered species, fish and other types of wetland habitat in an environmentally beneficial and cost effective manner. National participation Since the program’s inception in FY98, more than 25,600 agreements have enrolled in over 4 million acres. In FY07, more than 350,000 acres were enrolled through more than 2,100 agreements, according to the FY09 budget notes. Greatest participation In FY07, the largest number of contracts were in KS (132), followed by MS (119), and KY (108). The largest numbers of enrolled acres were in AZ (68,032 acres), OR (34,280 acres), and OK (26,504 acres). The greatest spending was in NH ($2.5 million), followed by AK ($2.2 million) and HI ($2.2 million). Participation priorities WHIP priorities for FY07 were to promote restoration of important wildlife habitat, promote wildlife habitat of at-risk species, reduce the impact of invasive species on wildlife habitat,; and promote declining aquatic wildlife species habitat. FY2008 spending (est.) $85 million. FY2009 spending (prop.) $0. Administration’s farm bill proposal would consolidate WHIP into a new comprehensive EQIP program. Authorization expires September 30, 2007. Backlog/interest In FY2007, WHIP had 3,242 unfunded applications at a total cost of $55.7 million. OK had the most unfunded applications (579), followed by GA (186) and VT (138). RI had the highest cost for these applications ($9.6 million), followed by OK ($5.7 million) and ME ($4.2 million), according to the NRCS website. Major 2002 farm bill amendments Required consideration of regional wildlife issues; authorized pilot program using up to 15% of funds to enroll land in contracts of at least 15 years. Statutory authority Enacted in §387 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127) as §1240N of the 1985 Food Security Act (P.L. 99-198); amended by §2502 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act 2002 (P.L. 107-171). (16 U.S.C. 3839bb-1)