Mandatory Spending

Function 300 - Natural Resources and Environment

Limit Enrollment in the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Programs

CBO periodically issues a compendium of policy options (called Options for Reducing the Deficit) covering a broad range of issues, as well as separate reports that include options for changing federal tax and spending policies in particular areas. This option appears in one of those publications. The options are derived from many sources and reflect a range of possibilities. For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget but makes no recommendations. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply an endorsement or rejection by CBO.

Billions of Dollars 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2021–
Change in Outlays  
  Phase out the Conservation Stewardship Program 0 * -0.1 -0.2 -0.2 -0.3 -0.5 -0.6 -0.7 -0.8 -0.5 -3.3
  Scale back the Conservation Reserve Program 0 0 -0.3 -0.5 -0.7 -0.7 -0.7 -0.7 -0.6 -0.6 -1.6 -5.0
  Implement both alternatives 0 * -0.4 -0.7 -1.0 -1.1 -1.2 -1.2 -1.3 -1.4 -2.1 -8.3

This option would take effect in October 2021.
* = between -$50 million and zero.

Under the Conservation Stewardship Program, owners of working farms and ranches enter into contracts with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to undertake new, and to maintain existing, conservation measures in exchange for annual payments and technical help. Contracts last five years and can be extended for another five years.

Under the Conservation Reserve Program, owners of working farms and ranches enter into contracts to stop production on specified tracts of land in exchange for annual payments and cost-sharing grants from USDA to establish conservation practices on that land. Acreage may be added to the Conservation Reserve Program through general enrollment (which is competitive and conducted periodically) for larger tracts of eligible land, or through continuous enrollment (which is available during annual sign-up periods announced by USDA) for smaller tracts of eligible land. Contracts last for 10 or 15 years, and landowners can reenroll for an additional term.

This option has two alternatives. The first would prohibit new enrollment in the Conservation Stewardship Program; land currently enrolled would be eligible to continue in the program until the contract for that land expired (up to 10 years if the contract is extended). The second alternative would prohibit new enrollment and reenrollment in the general enrollment portion of the Conservation Reserve Program; continuous enrollment would remain in effect.