Few states are making use of Department of Agriculture bonus payments that could help ramp up farm stewardship practices to reduce greenhouse gases, an EWG analysis finds.
The USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, provides $1.2 billion annually to help farmers deliver environmental benefits like improved air and water quality.
In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress allowed states to choose 10 of these “high priority” stewardship practices for which EQIP would cover 90 percent of the cost, up from 75 percent previously provided by USDA.
The USDA issued guidance directing states to select practices that produce significant benefits for the environment but are rarely implemented by farmers.
But EWG’s analysis, based on recent program data from 2020 and 2021, shows that just 15 states opted to provide bonus payments for “climate smart” practices.
Five states, including Minnesota and Iowa, included no climate-smart practices on their list of “high priority” practices.
Fourteen states included practices on their list of “high priority” practices that increase greenhouse gas emissions.
How states used USDA high priority practices
Using USDA ranking tools, EWG developed a list of climate-smart agricultural conservation EQIP practices that are good for addressing the climate crisis and reducing nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, that get into water.
Previous EWG analysis of EQIP data from 2019 and 2020 found:
- In 2020, only 21.5 percent of EQIP spending went to practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, down from 22.7 percent in 2019.
- In 2019 and 2020, more than $100 million went to EQIP practices, like animal waste storage facilities, that increase greenhouse gas emissions.
- Much of the EQIP spending on practices that reduce emissions went to cover crops, which may boost carbon sequestration only temporarily if used for just one year.
- Three-quarters of practices that may reduce emissions, or 24 of the 32, received less than $10 million each in funding each year.
- No EQIP funding went to better feed management, which could reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from cow burps.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.