Department of Agriculture Could Do More To Help Farmers Conserve Energy

EMD-82-30: Published: Sep 30, 1982. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 1982.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

James Duffus, III
(202) 512-7756
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed energy conservation measures which farmers could adopt in the near-term and federal efforts to assist farmers in adopting such measures.

GAO reported that energy conservation measures that farmers can adopt in the near-term include: (1) more efficient water management, which can conserve both energy and water in the irrigation process; (2) conservation tillage to reduce the number of tractor trips across a field and thereby reduce fuel requirements; and (3) more efficient use of fertilizer, grain drying, and the maintenance and operation of farm machinery and equipment. Some farmers are not implementing energy conservation actions because they are reluctant to change from traditional methods, believing such changes could adversely affect crop yield and income and are too risky. However, certain farming practices that were commonplace only a few years ago are being reevaluated in terms of energy efficiency, cost, and yield potential. To overcome their reluctance to change, farmers need adequate information to assure them that energy conservation actions are also cost effective. Although energy conservation information is available, it is often too general and not applicable to individual farm situations. The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) field agencies could provide farmers with energy conservation information and the new USDA Office of Energy could be the focal point for energy conservation. Because of the Department of Energy's (DOE) uncertain funding situation, GAO is concerned about the future of its program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Agriculture replied that the Office of Energy: (1) was already responsible for energy policy development and coordination; and (2) would be more active in coordinating and stressing technology transfer. The Office indicated several actions partially responsive or not germane to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should assign to the newly reestablished USDA Office of Energy responsibility for developing and carrying out an enhanced effort to promote energy conservation by farmers. Using its broad authority, this Office could coordinate and influence energy conservation activities of USDA field agencies to help assure that farmers receive assistance in identifying cost-effective energy conservation measures applicable to their specific farming situations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Agriculture agreed if DOE was willing to fund its participation. DOE disagreed with this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy should enter into an Interagency Agreement, pursuant to the general USDA/DOE Memorandum of Understanding, for USDA to perform the overall management and monitoring of the ongoing DOE energy integrated farm systems demonstration projects. This should help assure that the government's interests are protected and that the results of these projects are made available to the agricultural community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagreed and cited that: (1) most projects were in final stages and transfer to USDA would delay them; (2) when management responsibility was transferred to the Idaho Operations Office, funds were allocated for project completion and technology transfer; and (3) a technology transfer plan was initiated for providing information regularly to farmers.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy should enter into an Interagency Agreement, pursuant to the general USDA/DOE Memorandum of Understanding, for USDA to perform the overall management and monitoring of the ongoing DOE energy integrated farm systems demonstration projects. This should help assure that the government's interests are protected and that the results of these projects are made available to the agricultural community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 14, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Aug 11, 2016

Aug 9, 2016

Aug 4, 2016

Jul 15, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Mar 3, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here