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Abstract

The conservation compliance provision of the 1985 Food Security Act requires highly erodible land to be cropped according to a locally approved conservation plan. There is overwhelming evidence that conservation compliance has reduced soil erosion. A key issue confronting Congress as they consider 1995 Farm Bill options is the fate of these erosion benefits if commodity programs are eliminated or it the subsidy level is greatly reduced. This study provides policymakers with additional insights into the relationship between conservation tillage practices and government programs by using observed farmer behavior. The central question addressed is: If future program benefits are not tied to conservation practices, will there be a significant decline in the amount of acreage on which conservation practices are adopted? Tillage adoption decisions are modeled within a multinomial logit framework. There is limited evidence to argue that there will be a significant decline in conservation tillage for corn if program benefits are reduced. For wheat, the results suggest that conservation tillage practices are costly, and that wheat farmers may reduce conservation tillage if conservation compliance provisions are weakened or eliminated. However, no-till on wheat fields may increase with more flexibility. For corn, there is significant support for an increased in no-till if more corn-soybean rotations are adopted.

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