Risk Assessment for National Natural Resource Conservation Programs

This paper reviews the risk assessments prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in support of regulations implementing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These two natural resource conservation programs were authorized as part of the 1996 Farm Bill. The risk assessments were required under the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994. The framework used for the assessments was appropriate, but the assessments could be improved in the areas of assessments endpoint selection, definition, and estimation. Many of the assessment endpoints were too diffuse or ill-defined to provide an adequate characterization of the program benefits. Two reasons for this lack of clarity were apparent: 1) the large, unprioritized set of natural resource conservation objectives for the two programs and 2) there is little agreement about what changes in environmental attributes caused by agriculture should be considered adverse and which may be considered negligible. There is also some "double counting" of program benefits. Although the CRP and EQIP are, in part, intended to assist agricultural producers with regulatory compliance, the resultant environmental benefits would occur absent the programs. The paper concludes with a set of recommendations for continuing efforts to conduct regulatory analyses of these major conservation programs. The central recommendation is that future risk assessments go beyond efforts to identify the natural resources at greatest risk due to agricultural production activities and instead provide scientific input for analyses of the cost-effectiveness of the conservation programs.

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Working or Discussion Paper
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Discussion Paper 97-49

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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