WASHINGTON (April 28, 2015) – Conservatives in Congress should take great interest in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation compliance rules, particularly as new regulations are implemented to subject recipients of crop insurance subsidies to the requirements, according to an R Street Institute policy study released today.

In his study “Oversight needed to get conservation compliance right,” R Street Senior Policy Analyst Nathan Leamer writes that conservation compliance should be an important goal for Congress as it monitors the Obama administration’s implementation of the 2014 farm bill.

Leamer lays out the principles to guide this process, including balancing property rights and taxpayer accountability, real enforcement mechanisms, local knowledge and flexibility and a goal toward ultimately privatizing the crop insurance program.

Conservation compliance requirements ensure that taxpayer-financed agricultural subsidies aren’t used to destroy wetlands and easily erodible land. In a compromise championed by R Street during crafting of the 2014 farm bill, the requirements will be applied to recipients of crop insurance subsidies for the first time since 1996.

“Relinking conservation compliance requirements to access to federal crop insurance subsidies shows great promise to restore accountability and preserve sensitive land,” writes Leamer. “Taxpayers should not subsidize the conversion of sensitive wetlands and prairies to crop production.”

The paper is especially timely, as the USDA published its final rule on conservation compliance April 23 and will be accepting public comments through June 23.

“Conservatives traditionally have made it a top priority to eliminate examples of waste, fraud and abuse that hurt taxpayers. Conservative lawmakers should not exempt agriculture policy from that rubric,” Leamer wrote.

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