Agricultural conservation programs have provided multiple benefits to farmers, ranchers, wildlife and the general public, but as Congress works to incorporate big spending cuts in the next farm bill, funding for those programs will shrink. To help inform Congress and public about potential economic impacts of conservation policy decisions, the Council on Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics (C-FARE) this week released the “Conservation Crossroads” series of reports from top economists. The group held a news teleconference on Tuesday to brief the media on the reports.
The series includes the following titles:
- Top Ten Design Elements to Achieve More Efficient Conservation Programs, Prof. David Zilberman, University of California at Berkley and Prof. Kathleen Segerson, University of Connecticut
- Economic and Environmental Effects of Agricultural Insurance Programs, Prof. Daniel A. Sumner, University of California at Davis and Prof. Carl Zulauf, Ohio State University
- Examining the Relationship of Conservation Compliance and Farm Program Incentives, Prof. Otto Doering, Purdue University and Katherine Smith, American Farmland Trust
- Implications of a Reduced Conservation Reserve Program, Prof. JunJie Wu and Prof. Bruce Weber of Oregon State University
The reports demonstrate that although cuts to conservation programs can have far-reaching economic impacts beyond simply reducing payments to farmers. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), for example, might seem an unnecessary expense, particularly during times of high commodity prices. Removal of land from the CRP can increase crop acreage and potentially boost farm revenue in the short term, but those gains come at the expense of environmental and less-direct economic benefits.
Based on their analysis of academic studies of CRP’s costs and benefits for example, the researchers estimate the value of reduced soil erosion from CRP at $653 million per year or $20 per CRP acre per year. Reductions in soil erosion offers on-site benefits such as higher future crop yields and less fertilizer use, and off-site benefits such as reduced sedimentation of waterways.
Recreational benefits related to habitat provided by CRP land, such as upland bird hunting, provides a value of $963 million per year, or $29 per CRP acre per year.
Increased value of agricultural land due to CRP participation adds up to $1.1 billion per year, or $34 per CRP acre per year. The researchers also found that CRP helps add value to developed land in the area, amounting to a value of $789 per year or $24 per CRP acre per year.