AIMING FOR THE RIGHT TARGET: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AGRICULTURAL VOLUNTARY INITIATIVES AND WATER QUALITY IMPAIRMENT
Rosenberg, Kate Erin
Since the 1970s, agriculture has been cited as one of the leading contributors to the nation's degraded water quality. Forty years after the Clean Water Act's passage, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural operations remains a persistent policy challenge that cannot viably be addressed through regulatory mechanisms. Accordingly, voluntary, incentive-based programs--whereby farmers receive funding to undertake sustainable agriculture practices that benefit soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat--have gained popularity as a mechanism for addressing the looming nonpoint source problem. Given that funding for federal voluntary initiatives is limited, targeting these funds toward the most pressing geographic areas of resource concern is critical to achieving environmental goals. My research examines the extent to which funding under one of the farm bill's voluntary initiatives, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, has been targeted at the most impaired watersheds at the national level. In other words, I examine the extent to which water quality predicts Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding. I find that water quality does not predict funding, indicating that this particular voluntary initiative has not been targeted toward the most impaired watersheds. Accordingly, I recommend that future award allocations be driven by resource impairment, that USDA adopt a "Precision Conservation" model, and that water quality monitoring across the nation be improved.
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