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Response. The fiscal year 1982 proposed budget includes $5.5 million to be targeted for critical erosion control on cropland that is eroding at 14 tons or more per acre per year or 2.8 times the allowable limit in four geographical areas. These are the Palouse area which includes parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; the Cornbelt area of western Iowa and Missouri; the Piedmont and Southern Coastal Plains area of Georgia and Alabama; and the West Tennessee area which includes parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. This approach accelerates technical assistance in these areas to treat the worst first of the cropland erosion problems. In addition, SCS has changed its conservation planning policies so that conservation plans are developed only with those land users and only for those fields that need a plan. These efforts have enabled SCS to provide more technical assistance to those land users who have the most critical resource problems. The 1980 National Evaluation of the Agricultural Conservation Program indicates that targeting erosion control according to the potential for erosion reduction could more than triple the amount of soil saved. The Resource Conservation Act appraisal and program effort now underway by SCS also indicates similar increases in erosion prevention can be accomplished by targeting funds to problem areas. Recent appraisals of SCS operations within states have generally indicated that farmers who have planned and applied conservation treatment systems are showing improvement over farmers who do not plan and apply practices. But, to my knowledge, no specific follow-up report has been done since the 1977 GAO report. Mr. Robinson. It seems to me that erosion control policies should focus on soil erosion prevention rather than soil erosion cures. What incentives are embodied in SCS policies providing for the goal of preventing soil losses before we get to the restoration stage? Response. SCS policies are designed to prevent erosion by applying and maintaining a conservation treatment system that will maintain the soil resource base at or below the annual allowable soil loss. The problem is that 926 million acres of the Nation's nonfederal land needs conservation treatment and maintenance. Over 340 million of these acres are presently eroding at rates more than the annual allowable limit. At present rates of treatment, only 4 to 5 percent of the total acreage requiring treatment is treated annually. Land use changes, ownership changes, agricultural export levels, prices, and production costs are but a few of the factors that cause a continuous change in the acreage of land needing treatment. Also because some soil losses may be offset by increased fertilization and use of improved varieties it is not always possible on a voluntary basis to convince a land user of the need to prevent erosion. Because of the magnitude of the current erosion problem, SCS policy is to do the worst first. This does not provide ample time to work with the land users converting land to more intensive uses and to plan for and carry out the land treatment systems needed to prevent erosion. Mr. Robinson. Can you tell me how much of the money in the soil conservation cost-sharing program administered by the ASCS is used for measures primarily oriented toward conserving the Nation's topsoil reserve, as distinct from improving crop yields? RESPONSE. As the Agricultural Conservation Program is administered by the ASCS, I will ask them to supply an answer to this for the record. [The information follows:] ASCS, with SCS assistance, is striving to direct ACP cost-sharing practices to those areas and soils of greatest need to achieve the most effective erosion control of the Nation's topsoil. The practice recommendations from local committees are also reviewed by a national group comprised of representatives of several USDA agencies and others. This group makes recommendations on practices to be authorized. Although most conservation practices provide some increases in crop yields, at least in the long run, ASCS restricts cost-sharing to only those practices where in our best collective judgment we believe the primary benefit is conservation rather than production. Mr. Robinson. In the past, criticisms have been made of SCS saying that some of the 2,750 district conservationists spent a substantial part of their time preparing conservation plans for individual farms which are seldom followed and soon become out of date. Can you comment on this? Response. SCS policies in the past required that a conservation plan be developed for an entire farm, ranch, or operating unit. In 1978 SCS changed its policies concerning conservation planning procedures. Now a conservation plan is developed with a land user only for that acreage of field that needs treatment. This new approach has provided much more flexibility in our conservation planning procedures and has resulted in more effective conservation planning. Program appraisals
now being conducted by SCS place emphasis on the practices the land user has applied as a result of the plan and not on the plan itself.
AGRICULTURAL RUNOFF PROBLEMS IN VIRGINIA Mr. ROBINSON. The SCS and Virginia State Water Control Board recently looked at 15 watersheds in Virginia and found some serious problems from agriculture runoff. Can you comment on these findings?
RESPONSE. The Soil Conservation Service and the State Water Control Board conducted a joint study of potential water quality problems caused by agricultural pollution. The study was financed by EPA. A total of 15 watersheds from the 5 basins with the greatest potential for pollution were identified as having high potential for creating water quality problems as a result of agriculture run-off. The erosion rates, cropping patterns, livestock numbers, fertilization practices, and other similar parameters were used to identify potential. This study and the resulting information was used as input to the state water quality management plan. The information will serve as documentation for requests for specific program assistance. Possibilities for assistance include the P.L. 566 Small Watershed Program, the Experimental Rural Clean Water Program, the Agricultural Conservation Program, the clean lakes program of EPA, and local initiatives.
Mr. WHITTEN. I want to compliment you on your presentation, Mr. Berg. We look forward to working with you, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. BERG. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE
Statement of Norman A. Berg, Chief, Soil Conservation Service, before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies.
I am pleased to appear again before your Subcommittee to discuss
our 1982 Budget Estimate as amended on March 10, 1981.
I want to thank you for your continued and deep concern for the farmer, rancher, and forester and American agriculture. Your understanding of their need to conserve, develop and improve the Nation's soil and water resources has led to Congress authorizing about thirty soil, water, and watershed conservation programs in the past 45 years. These include all that my agency administers plus programs for research, extension and financial assistance to help the land and water users invest their
resources for public benefit.
The extensive appraisal that we have made pursuant to the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977 (RCA) has identified the major soil, water, and related resource problems facing the Nation. This appraisal provides compelling evidence that these problems will worsen as further demands are placed on our land and water resources due to
projected needs for food and fiber for domestic consumption and export.
We have completed all of the technical inputs into the RCA process
called for in the Act and have furnished all of the information developed
to the Office of the Secretary for their review. The 1982 RCA program has not been formulated yet. Therefore, the fiscal year 1982 budget is not based on any specific RCA program recommendations. Hopefully, the Program will be finalized within the next few months, and the 1983 Budget
will reflect these decisions.
This budget will permit SCS to carry out its broad responsibilities for our Nation's soil and water conservation program at about the current level for most activities. It provides for assistance on a national scale to farmers and ranchers, other land users, and units of
The revised budget that you have before you for consideration is a conservative one that responds to the current economic situation and the need to exercise fiscal restraint in federal spending. Inflation, caused in part by the rapid growth of the Federal Budget, is not only a major problem for you and me as consumers, but it is also a number one enemy of federal programs. Funding for Soil Conservation Service programs is a prime example. Despite increases of about 68% in actual appropriations over the past ten years, our purchasing power has actually declined by about 17%. The control of the double digit inflation of recent years is critical to preserving buying power of the federal program dollar. We all must make some sacrifices in order to achieve
this very desirable longer range goal.
The total 1982 budget proposed for the SCS is $552,539,000.
Compared to the current estimate for 1981, it includes program decreases
of $55,374,000 and increases of $19,556,000 primarily to fund increased
operating and pay costs for a net decrease of $35,818,000. Both the
fiscal year 1981 and 1982 Estimate have incorporated into them a series
of reductions reflecting the current Administration's efforts to reduce
federal travel, procurement, use of consulting services, and employment
Total reductions of $6.3 million in FY 1981 and $2.7 million in
FY 1982 have been made to reflect these savings.
The budget proposal includes $317,639,000 for Conservation Operations. This is a net increase of $6,730,000 from fiscal year 1981. Six activities are funded under this appropriation, including:
Conservation Technical Assistance
The FY 1982 Budget proposes $236,925,000 for Conservation Technical Assistance. This is $3,844,000 more than fiscal year 1981. This is the
net result of a $7,144,000 increase primarily to defray increased oper
ating costs and pay costs and a program decrease of $3,300,000.
For 1982, we will continue to focus our attention and resources on
major conservation needs throughout the country, including those related
to erosion, prime farmlands, water quality and supply, agricultural waste
management, and providing services to Indian lands. We will use $6.7
million of these funds to accelerate the treatment of serious conservation
problems in the West Tennessee Region which includes parts of Mississippi,