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Improving water-use efficiency remains a challenge for U.S. irrigated agriculture

Monday, May 6, 2013

U.S. agriculture accounts for 80-90 percent of the Nation’s consumptive water use (water lost to the environment by evaporation, crop transpiration, or incorporation into products). The 17 Western States account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. irrigated agriculture. While substantial technological innovation has already occurred in irrigation systems, significant room for improvement in farm irrigation efficiency still exists. Between 1994 and 2008, the combined share of Western irrigated acres using improved gravity-flow and low-pressure sprinkler systems has increased but the rate at which traditional irrigation systems have been replaced with more efficient, improved systems has slowed over the past decade. This chart comes from the Amber Waves September 2012 finding, Improving Water-Use Efficiency Remains a Challenge for U.S. Irrigated Agriculture.

Conservation structures are more common on highly erodible land

Friday, September 7, 2012

Conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program help farmers implement best management practices, including the installation of soil conservation structures and vegetative measures. Structures and vegetation such as terraces, grassed waterways, grade stabilization structures, filter strips, and riparian buffers can reduce soil erosion and sedimentation and chemical runoff in local waterways, especially on highly erodible land (HEL). According to data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, erosion control structures and conservation buffers were more prevalent on HEL than on non-HEL, but adoption rates varied across commodities and conservation structure types. This chart can be found in the ERS report, Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2012 Edition, EIB-98, August 2012.

Farm program changes could affect environmental compliance incentives

Monday, July 16, 2012

Federal farm program payments help encourage good stewardship of natural resources through environmental compliance requirements. To maintain eligibility for most farm programs, farmers must follow an approved soil conservation plan on all highly erodible land used for crop production. Farmers who do not comply with these requirements, even on a small number of acres, risk losing some or all of their Federal farm commodity, conservation, and disaster payments, as well as access to Federal farm loan and loan guarantee programs. Since 2003, annual farm program payments subject to environmental compliance have fluctuated between $11 billion and $20 billion. Most of the variation can be attributed to countercyclical payments (CCP) and marketing loan benefits (MLB), which are triggered by low crop prices. Since 2007, high prices for most program crops have sharply reduced CCP and MLB payments from their 2005-06 levels. Direct payments have accounted for roughly half of the compliance incentive since 2008. If they are eliminated in the 2012 farm bill, farmers who do not receive conservation or disaster payments (the other major payments subject to environmental compliance) may have less incentive to continue meeting compliance requirements unless these payments are replaced by another type of commodity or insurance program subject to compliance. This chart appeared in the June 2012 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

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