Agricultural Conservation:

Survey Results on USDA's Implementation of Food Security Act Compliance Provisions, an E-supplement to GAO-03-418

GAO-03-492SP: Published: Apr 21, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 2003.

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This document presents the results of our survey of field officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on the implementation of the conservation compliance provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended. We surveyed the official-usually the district conservationist-responsible for compliance reviews in each of NRCS's 2,549 field offices that conducted compliance reviews during the period 1998 through 2001 to obtain information on that official's understanding and implementation of the conservation provisions, as well as the official's views on the effectiveness of these provisions. To obtain the views of each field office official, we developed a web-based questionnaire. Information about accessing the questionnaire was provided via e-mail for those NRCS staff selected to participate in the survey. The survey was activated on September 10, 2002, and it was available until October 2, 2002. To ensure security and data integrity, we provided each NRCS field official with a password that allowed him or her to access and complete a questionnaire for the local office. We also provided these officials with a pledge of confidentiality to ensure their candor in completing the survey. We received responses from 2,015, or 79 percent, of the officials surveyed. The survey results were then stratified by state. We show the results for the individual states when at least 15 field offices from a state responded to the survey. When fewer than 15 field offices from a state responded, we combined the responses in order to maintain the confidentiality of the officials. Although respondents were invited to provide written comments to open-ended questions, we include only the count of the respondents providing these comments. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology and a summary of the survey results are contained in our report entitled Agricultural Conservation: USDA Needs to Better Ensure Protection of Highly Erodible Cropland and Wetlands (GAO-03-418). We conducted our survey work from May 2002 through November 2002 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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