The Government Accountability Office issued a report today on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Security Program administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. GAO reported several shortcomings in the NRCS's management of those programs and offered recommendations for improving the services.
GAO cited problems with NRCS's process for directing EQIP funds, saying that NRCS's general assistance formula does not include a documented rationale for how the factors of that formula relate to optimizing environmental benefits. In response, GAO recommends a review of the financial assistance formula's factors and suggests NRCS make sure its data sources are accurate and up to date.
While NRCS is developing long-term, outcome-oriented measures for EQIP, GAO found that NRCS did not have plans to link those measures to the current funding process. GAO applauds the potential for the outcome-oriented measures in the report and suggests that NRCS use information from its performance measures to revise its assistance formula.
GAO also found that producers can sometimes receive duplicate payments through CSP and other USDA conservation programs because of similarities in the actions those programs finance, and suggests that NRCS develop a comprehensive process to identify duplicate payments.