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Abstract

The Conservation Reserve Program, one of more than twenty voluntary conservation programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, was initiated under the Agricultural Act of 1985 and has evolved under subsequent farm bills. Today, enrollment acres are selected among qualifying land based on an environmental benefits index. Total land enrolled will drop to a maximum of 24 million acres under the Agricultural Act of 2014. This report covers a broad scope of existing literature related to the Conservation Reserve Program. Although much of the literature is dated and not reflective of today’s markets, the currency of the message is that landowners respond to financial incentives. Further, uncertainty about the costs and financial benefits has endured as a hindrance to enrollment that may otherwise be attractive to landowners. Research supports the influence of a host of additional factors, including those non‐financial. A focus on consideration of local conditions and specific conservation practices will aid future research, although specificity must be balanced against incorporating landowner consideration of other land‐use alternatives. The literature emphasizes the need to educate decision‐makers on all aspects of conservation program options likely to influence their enrollment decision using a venue that is accessible to them. This information should stress economic factors and focus on specifics such as the impact of a specific conservation practice locally and the likely economic impact of various options for the individual producer. We should look for innovative, efficient methods to increase farmer access to this information to include social networks and peer education.

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