R Street welcomes bill to reform USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program
A 30-year-old voluntary conservation program that provides assistance to agricultural producers who implement conservation practices on working land, EQIP has provided an estimate $28 billion to landowners since passage of the 2014 farm bill. While many EQIP projects have produced positive environmental outcomes, USDA data show that it wasted more than $1 billion from 2009 to 2016 on infrastructure products that produce little or no benefit to the environment.
The bipartisan legislation would prioritize federal assistance for the most effective conservation projects and reduce support for the least effective. It would also reduce the overall five-year EQIP cap from $450,000 to $150,000, which would free up funds to serve more farmers, and end an arbitrary requirement that 60 percent of EQIP funds go to livestock producers.
“Too often, precious taxpayer dollars flow to projects that have no significant benefit for the environment or that farmers would have paid to complete on their own dime for business reasons,” R Street Policy Analyst Caroline Kitchens said. “This legislation takes an important first step in reforming the program to ensure that taxpayers are getting more bang for their buck and seeing positive environmental returns from their investment.”