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
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.