A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today prompted Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to call for the USDA to fix the distribution formula for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds. Harkin is the ranking Member on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and requested the report from GAO.
"USDA's funding formula shortchanges many states with serious environmental needs related to agriculture," Harkin said. "I am asking Secretary Johanns to ensure that the formula fairly addresses the conservation needs of all states, is clearly related to the purposes of the program and is supported by hard data."
EQIP assists agricultural producers who install or adopt agricultural conservation practices, such as planting vegetation along streams, nutrition management and installing animal waste storage facilities, to conserve and improve water, air and soil.
GAO found many problems in the distribution of EQIP funds, with some of the more significant issues standing out. The report shows that the formula sometimes uses outdated data and that the Natural Resources Conservation Service sometimes applied the same data to two different factors even when it did not make sense to. Also, GAO found indications that the formula is biased in favor of factors "indicative of dryland agriculture and livestock feeding and ranching." This is made especially clear by Texas' disproportionately large share of EQIP funding, at five times the average of other states and far ahead of California, the next ranked state.