The Potential of the Conservation Reserve Program to Control Agricultural Water Pollution
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), initiated by the Conservation Title of the Food Security Act of 1985, is the primary federal program to control nonpointsource pollution in agricultural watersheds of the United States. However, the program is designed primarily to reduce soil erosion rather than to retire croplands in a manner optimal for controlling runoff of sediment and associated pollutants. This study estimates potential enrollment of streamside and floodplain croplands in this ten-year retirement program in order to gauge the potential of the CRP as a water-quality improvement policy. A contingent choice survey design was employed in Fayette County, Illinois, to demonstrate that there is substantial potential for retirement of streamside and floodplain croplands in the CRP. Enrollments in each program climb from less than 6% to over 83% of eligible croplands as the annual rental rate is increased from $20 to $200/acre. Potential retirement of streamside and floodplain croplands declines, however, if tree planting, drainage removal, or a 20-year contract are required. The potential of a CRP-based water-quality program to improve water quality and aquatic ecosystems in agricultural watersheds is thus substantial but constrained by the economic trade-offs that farmers make between crop production and conservation incentives in determining the use of their riparian lands.
Lant, C.L., 1991. The potential of the Conservation Reserve Program to Control Agricultural Water Pollution, Environmental Management 15(4): 507-518.