Jess R. Phelps


Over the past several Farm Bills, there has been a somewhat subtle shift in program design to better incorporate regional perspectives/localized areas of conservation concern into national conservation program delivery. The purpose of this Article is to specifically explore the various roles that regional considerations play in existing Farm Bill conservation programs and also consider whether further developments in this direction could result in more flexible program delivery, more effective partnerships, and ultimately, better conservation outcomes. To this end, section II will provide an overview of the history of the Farm Bill, from its origins to the emergence of a distinct conservation title, and will examine how regional goals and objectives factor into federal agri-environmental policy. Section III will provide an extended discussion of the contemporary conservation title with the goal of providing the necessary context to understand USDA’s current mix of conservation programs. Section IV will evaluate and consider the different ways regional conservation goals are incorporated into national farm policy, including the relatively newly authorized Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which is at the forefront of these efforts. Last, section V, will provide policy recommendations for moving forward with further expansion of regionalized program delivery. Ultimately, regionality can play an important role in targeting the delivery of conservation programs to better address localized conservation concerns, but to do this effectively will require considerable investments in time and organizational learning in order to successfully fulfill this intended role.

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