Agricultural Conservation:

Status of Programs That Provide Financial Incentives

RCED-95-169: Published: Apr 28, 1995. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) incentive-based conservation programs, focusing on: (1) the programs' budget and level of activity; (2) the primary purpose of the conservation programs; and (3) options for consolidating these programs.

GAO found that: (1) between fiscal years 1992 and 1995, Congress appropriated $8.6 billion for USDA incentive-based conservation programs; (2) these programs supported conservation measures on about 71 million agricultural acres under about 565,000 agreements with land users; (3) while most conservation programs have multiple purposes, soil erosion control was the primary purpose for spending 90 percent of the programs' funds and implementing conservation measures on about 80 percent of the agricultural acres in the programs; (4) cost-share programs were found to have more diverse purposes than land retirement programs; (5) options for consolidating incentive-based programs and increasing agricultural land users' access to financial assistance include combining application procedures into one form, merging programs with similar incentives, and consolidating all programs under a state block-grant program; and (6) USDA is considering these options under ongoing government reinvention efforts and in anticipation of impending legislation.

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