Preserving Water Quality: Challenges and Opportunities in Policy Innovation
Madhu Khanna and James Shortle
This special issue examines the political and institutional factors that have governed the design of conservation programs in the US, the design flaws that limit the effectiveness of these programs and the role that emerging technologies can play in leading to science-based conservation policy design.
Emerging nutrient management and perennial crop technologies have the potential to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural production. We discuss challenges for designing cost-effective conservation policy and directions for future research, including the role of information technologies, site-specific management and systems analysis to inform science-based conservation policy design.
The congressional budgeting process creates challenges for reauthorizing and revising mandatory programs. The potential for conflict arises as interests seek to increase any program; conservation programs in the farm bill are no exception. Adding acres to the Conservation Reserve Program has the potential to create such a conflict.
Agriculture is a leading cause of water quality problems. The existing policy architecture relies excessively on voluntary controls, focuses on effort rather than outcomes, and allocates scarce resources inefficiently across places and sectors. Policy reforms can improve water quality and reduce the social costs of water pollution control.
Marc O. Ribaudo
Cost-effective conservation programs provide the most environmental benefit for a given budget. Designing cost-effective programs that rely on voluntary participation can be challenging. A number of design features could improve the economic performance of current conservation programs.