story to find out more.
cost-effectiveness of conservation practices, such as this riparian forest
buffer that ARS ecologist Richard Lowrance is standing next to. This kind of
buffer can keep excess phosphorus from streams. Click the image for more
information about it.
Farm Conservation Dollars and Sense
By Don Comis
December 9, 2005
New York City has decided that underwriting the costs of farmers'
installing conservation practices is a better buy than the technological fix of
changing treatment methods for its drinking water.
Making sure that taxpayers are getting their money's worth from
publicly funded conservation measures is the goal of the new Conservation
Effects Assessment Program (CEAP). Most of the
funds for agricultural conservation come from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) through the
Farm Security and Rural
Investment Act, the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill used to fund mostly commodity-related programs. The
legislators shifted emphasis in 2002 by increasing conservation funding by 80
percent, compared to the 1996 bill.
This intensified demands to ensure that conservation funding be used
effectively. USDA decided to do a cost-benefit analysis of the conservation
practices funded over the past 50 years and report the results to the
Office of Management and Budget,
Congress, farmers, ranchers and environmental policymakers. CEAP is the result,
with a goal of putting dollar-and- cent values on the practices farm and
The program includes watershed projects in states from New York to
California, involving farmers, ranchers and local, state and federal partners.
Richardson, director of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, Texas, coordinates ARS
watersheds in the program.
CEAPs Town Brook, N.Y., watershed is a good example. Its nearly
9,150 acres drain into Cannonsville Reservoir, the second-largest reservoir in
the Catskill/Delaware reservoir system that supplies about 94 percent of New
York City's drinking water. Excess phosphorus, probably from dairy manure,
stimulates algal blooms that interfere with chlorination.
New York Citys water authority decided it was economical to help
farmers control phosphorus.
It is this type of costs and benefits CEAP will measure over the next
several years, along with improving practices.
about ARS research as part of CEAP in the December 2005 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the USDAs chief
scientific research agency.