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Feb 21 -- The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) invites comments to OMB by March 22, 2024 regarding the revised extension of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Survey.

The goal of this information collection is to obtain land management information that will assist the Natural Resources Conservation Service in assessing environmental benefits associated with implementation and installation of associated conservation practices of various conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, the Wetland Reserve Program, and other conservation programs.

The survey will utilize personal interviews to administer a questionnaire that is designed to obtain from farm operators field-specific data associated with selected National Resources Inventory sub-sample units in the contiguous 48 States. Data collected in this survey will be used in conjunction with previously collected data on soils, climate, and cropping history to model impacts of conservation practices on the larger environment. USDA needs updated scientifically credible data on residue and tillage management, nutrient management, and conservation practices in order to quantify and assess current impacts of farming practices and to document changes.

The last CEAP information collection occurred in 2016. For the upcoming CEAP Surveys in 2024, 2025, and 2026, the NRI CEAP program will be at the continental US level (48 States). The target sample size will average 20,000 farm operators annually for the three-year period. Data collected under this ICR is under a cooperative agreement between the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in cooperation with the Iowa State University Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology (ISU-CSSM).

The National Resources Inventory (NRI) Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a scientifically-based, longitudinal panel survey designed to assess conditions and trends of soil, water, and related resources of the Nation’s non-Federal lands. The NRI CEAP survey is conducted for the USDA by NRCS in cooperation with ISU-CSSM and provides information to address agricultural and environmental issues at national, regional, and state levels. Data gathered in the NRI CEAP survey are linked to NRCS soil and climate databases. These linked data, along with NRI historical data, form the basis for unique modeling applications and analytical capabilities.

The goal of this NASS information collection is to obtain land management information that will assist NRCS in assessing environmental benefits of conservation practices associated with implementation of various conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Farmable Wetland Program (FWP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and other conservation programs.  Tracking the environmental benefits of the practices implemented by these programs allows policy makers and program managers to evaluate and modify existing programs and design new programs to more effectively meet the goals of Congress.

The NRI CEAP was initiated by USDA in 2003 as a multi-agency effort to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices on agricultural lands.  The assessment was initiated in support of the 2002 Farm Bill, which substantially increased funding along with accountability for the added funding for conservation programs on agricultural lands.  NRCS was designated the lead agency for the NRI CEAP.  NRCS needs updated scientifically credible data on residue and tillage management, nutrient management, and conservation practices in order to quantify and assess impacts of current farming practices and to document changes.

Sample points will be drawn from the NRCS NRI database, using a stratified sample.  Non-response adjustments are used in the post-survey weighting.  The NRI sampling frame will be used for this project because it captures agricultural resources such as soil type(s), topography, and climate; critical factors in estimating benefits of conservation practices.  Also important are the historical and linked data that exist for each NRI sample site.  The assessment of benefits is not possible without augmenting the existing data with additional information on land management, the adoption of conservation practices, and conservation program participation.

NASS will collaborate with NRCS in the acquisition of this additional information by conducting a survey for a sub-sample of NRI sample units.  The survey will utilize personal interviews with farm operators to administer a questionnaire that is designed to obtain field-specific data associated with the selected NRI sample units.  These units are fields that encompass the NRI points and will be defined by enumerators at the time of the interviews.  Specific questions are asked about physical characteristics of the field, farming activities, and conservation practices associated with the field.  Information regarding participation in conservation programs will be obtained from the local NRCS field office.

Benefit measures will include soil quality enhancement, erosion reduction, reduction in nutrient and sediment losses from farm fields, soil carbon sequestration, and reductions of in-stream nutrient and sediment concentrations.  Benefits will be estimated by applying transport models and other physical process models at sample sites associated with the NRI sampling frame.

CEAP: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/ceap
NASS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202401-0535-003 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-03487

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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