Agriculture and Food:

Farm Program Research

RCED-93-48R: Published: Oct 7, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) barriers to the use of alternative, less environmentally intrusive agricultural practices; and (2) farm commodity programs' impact on rural communities. GAO noted that: (1) the two paradigms within the agricultural sector are conventional and sustainable agricultural practices; (2) conventional agriculture utilizes specialized farming and cropping systems and relies on chemicals for pest control and soil fertilization; (3) sustainable agriculture attempts to integrate plant and animal production practices, satisfy human food and fiber needs, enhance environmental quality, efficiently use nonrenewable resources, sustain the viability of farm operations, and raise farmers' and societies' living standards; (4) barriers to sustainable agriculture include farmers' inability to grow other crops and implement diverse rotations; (5) Congress has enacted provisions allowing program farmers to independently plant 15 percent of their base acreage while remaining eligible for the program; (6) federal taxes, farm credits, and environmental policies also affect production decisions; (7) farm commodity programs have kept moderate-sized farmers in the farm sector; and (8) little evidence has been shown linking farm commodity programs with declines in rural farming communities.

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