University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Concerns about water quality degradation exist in Northwest Arkansas. The purpose of this study was to analyze the potential usefulness of U.S. conservation programs in addressing water quality concerns on farms in the Illinois River watershed as well as greater Washington County, Arkansas. It was hypothesized that neither the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) nor the Conservation Security Program (CSP) in their current forms effectively assists farmers in meeting water-quality management goals. That hypothesis was tested by 1) examining agricultural characteristics of the watershed, 2) actual adoption of EQIP and CSP in Washington County and Arkansas, and, 3) identifying factors that influence program adoption. Results show that based on watershed and farmer characteristics, neither program can meet water quality goals for the region. EQIP adoption is hindered by high rejection rates of applications and farmer dissatisfaction with the program. CSP adoption is unlikely because it does not consider watersheds with degraded water quality and allowable best management practices (BMPs) do not include those related to waste management – precisely the practices most often used by these watershed farmers. Suggestions are offered to modify both EQIP and CSP and use them as a two-part plan to better serve the needs of farmers and improve both adoption rates of BMPs by farmers and water quality in the region.