During the financial crisis of the Great Depression, one out of four Americans lived on a farm. In 1933, the federal government established the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the first farm bill, as a way of supporting rural communities. The farm programs of this bill controlled the supply of commodities through price supports to farmers who voluntarily reduced production. However, the program was funded through a tax on commodities that was often passed on to consumers. In 1936 the tax was declared unconstitutional and the federal government established The Soil Conservation Act, which would become the nation’s first conservation initiative. The Act made funding available to farmers who adopted soil conservation practices. Throughout the following 70 years, various congressional acts continued to search for ways to balance between the reduction of commodity surpluses to maintain high prices and offering financial support to farmers. The 1985 Farm Bill established the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which worked to conserve biologically important areas as well as highly erosive lands. The 1996 Farm Bill extended the CRP and formed the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), a land management conservation program. Farm Bill conservation programs in the future are likely to continue including subsidies and to incorporate more “green payments,” funding support offered to farmers for conservation and environmental enhancement.
History and Outlook for Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Zachary Cain and Stephen Lovejoy
Ames, IA: The American Agricultural Economics Association
October 01, 2004
Conservation Policies and Programs, Farm Bill