General Accounting Office's View on the Conservation Provisions of the 1990 Farm Bill

T-RCED-90-49: Published: Mar 15, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1990.

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GAO discussed its views on: (1) Food Security Act-related soil and water programs; and (2) potential changes Congress might consider for the 1990 farm bill. GAO noted that: (1) soil conservation programs helped reduce the environmental impacts of agricultural production, but the act only applied to about one-third of the 423 million highly erodible acres of U.S. cropland; (2) the Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not take prompt action to address water quality concerns in implementing its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); (3) USDA developed coordinating mechanisms to oversee its water quality efforts, but did not establish an executive office to oversee its water quality activities; (4) USDA did not develop a comprehensive water quality policy; and (5) federal policy objectives and goals conflicted concerning agricultural chemicals and water and land conservation. GAO also noted that Congress may wish to consider: (1) a requirement to restore converted wetlands and regain farmer eligibility for farm program payments; (2) requiring a penalty for the conversion of fragile lands; (3) allowing continued enrollment in CRP and modifying the 25-percent county cap in areas suffering from water quality problems; (4) improving management of specific act provisions; and (5) legislative changes to encourage the use of alternative agricultural methods to reduce environmental damage.

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