CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM MERITS RENEWAL WITH MODIFICATIONS
Congress is considering continuation of the Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) in the 1995 Farm Bill. The Council for Agricultural
Science and Technology (CAST) has released a background document "The
Conservation Reserve: A Survey of Research and Interest Groups" for
The publication provides a summary of research literature on the CRP, a
program to retire highly erodible cropland, and a detailed survey of 18
interest groups in agriculture, agribusiness, conservation, and the
environment. It outlines three options for the program: renewal,
termination, or modification.
"Bringing together materials from over 400 studies and the positions of
those surveyed will provide policymakers with information relevant to
making decisions on the future of the CRP," said Jennie Hughes, a
researcher at Colorado State University and coauthor of the report.
Participants in the CRP are pleased with the program because it
provides income stability, decreases the need for credit, and in some
instances allows farmers to retire early. Other findings from the
research literature include the following:
* The CRP has decreased cropland erosion, improved water quality,
and increased land values and wildlife benefits.
* Negative effects include some noxious weed problems and business
fluctuations in some agriculturally dependent communities.
* The cost of the program is estimated at $1.8 billion a year, or
close to $19 billion over the life of the program.
Interest Group Survey Results
Positions of 16 of the groups surveyed are as follows:
* All support a CRP renewal.
* Groups recommend very different levels of acreage enrollment.
* All favor multiple targeting.
* All favor use of contracts while some support a mixture of short-
and long-term land retirement options.
* A majority favors economic land use options, of which haying and
grazing is the most controversial.
* All support more localized control of the program.
The groups surveyed were the American Farm Bureau Federation, American
Farmland Trust, American Soybean Association, Ducks Unlimited, The
Fertilizer Institute, National Association of Conservation Districts,
National Association of Wheat Growers, National Audubon Society,
s Association, National Cotton Council, National
Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Grain and
Feed Association, National Grain Sorghum Producers, National Pork
Producers Council, The Nature Conservancy, Soil and Water Conservation
Society, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
"The CRP provides benefits that many people would like to see continue.
For the program to be renewed, however, it probably will have to cost
less while still providing benefits people care about," Jennie Hughes
* If a modified program is developed during the 1995 Farm Bill
proceedings, it will be less costly due to decreased acreage
enrollment, will contain more effective eligibility criteria, and
will decrease rental rates when there are allowable economic uses.
* The program will address a number of environmental issues and will
target program lands according to specific productivity and
environmental benefit criteria.
* The CRP will be most likely to succeed if design, implementation,
and control are shared at national and local levels.
* Supporters of a modified CRP will be recipients of environmental
benefits, participants whose land qualifies for the program, and
policymakers with constituents capturing CRP benefits.
* Opponents of a leaner, more cost-effective CRP are producers who
no longer qualify for the program, individuals who want to
decrease government involvement in agriculture, and taxpayers who
are forced to continue to pay the cost of the CRP when they do not
think that the program is worthwhile.
The Conservation Reserve Program was created in 1985 to encourage
farmers to retire highly erodible cropland in return for annual rental
payments and a one-time conservation practice cost share payment. In
1995, CRP contracts began to expire. Given the size, scope, and
importance of the program, Congress is considering its continuation in
the 1995 Farm Bill debate.
The survey and report were prepared by Jennie S. Hughes and Dana L.
Hoag of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado
State University, Fort Collins, and Terry E. Nipp, AESOP Enterprises,
Ltd., Washington, D.C. Three additional scientists served as credited
"The Conservation Reserve: A Survey of Research and Interest Groups"
is available for $12.00 from CAST, 4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA
50014-3447, (515) 292-2125. CAST identifies food and fiber,
environmental, and other agricultural issues and interprets related
scientific research information for legislators, regulators, and the
media for use in public policy decision making. CAST is a nonprofit
organization of 30 scientific societies and many individual, student,
company, nonprofit, and associate society members.
The results of the interest group survey are included as an appendix to
For information contact:
Dana L. Hoag, author, (970) 491-2067
Jennie S. Hughes, author, (970) 491-6872
Terry E. Nipp, author, (202) 675-4511
Richard E. Stuckey, executive vice president, (515) 292-2125
ASCII text of an interpretive summary is available. To receive a copy by
electronic mail, send a request to: email@example.com.
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology
4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014-3447, USA
phone: (515) 292-2125, fax: (515) 292-4512