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The role of agri-environmental programs has taken on increased importance in the current Farm Bill debate with an eighty percent increase in Title II funding. However, little empirical evidence exists on the tradeoffs between economic costs and environmental benefits of new agri-environmental programs to assist policymakers in their designs. This paper illustrates some of the budgetary and environmental issues inherent in these initiatives. Several policy options are explored using an environmental simulation model and an economic spatial-equilibrium model for U.S. agriculture. Results indicate abatement levels of nitrogen and pesticides are higher under performance-based policies and those for wind erosion and soil productivity are higher under practice-based policies. Abatement of phosphorus discharge, soil erosion and carbon sequestration remains relatively constant regardless of policy type. A national performance-based conservation policy funded at the $1 billion level has the potential to improve the environmental performance of U.S. farmers by as much as ten percent.


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