A farmworker adjusts sprinkler heads. A new report analyzes the farm bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. David McNew/Getty Images

One of the Agriculture Department’s most popular programs to protect farmland remains tilted toward practices that yield little climate or conservation benefit, a policy group said Tuesday.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said in a report that the Environmental Quality Incentives Program — an anchor of the five-year farm bill’s conservation efforts — puts a disproportionate amount of money into projects such as manure digesters on big farms, depriving smaller farms of help on climate-smart efforts.

In some cases, the report said, EQIP has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to a manure system on a single farm that could instead have been spread among several smaller farms for practices with greater climate or conservation benefit, such as prescribed grazing or raising crop-producing trees on pastures.

The organization called on Congress to adjust the program in the next farm bill, including targeted funds to smaller farms by reducing the funding cap for any particular project. But while several Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation to do so, the Agriculture committees have shown little appetite for shifting the program’s focus.




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