Assessing the relation of USDA conservation expenditures to suspended sediment reductions in an Iowa watershed

Gabriele Villarini, Keith E. Schilling, Christopher S. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


From 1936 to 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies spent $293.7 billion (value adjusted for inflation at the 2009 level) on conservation programs. Of these expenditures, $75.2 billion (26%) were allocated for technical assistance (TA; it is related to costs associated with USDA field staff providing their expert advice to farmers) and $218.5 billion (74%) for financial assistance (FA; monetary incentives for farmers to adopt conservation programs). A major environmental goal of these programs was to reduce soil erosion and sediment leaving the land. In this study, we correlate expenditures on FA and TA programs to a unique long (1937-2009) record of total suspended solids (TSS) and sediment load (SL) for the Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa. Study results suggest that three predictors (rainfall, TA and FA) are important in explaining the temporal changes in annual TSS and SL and provide evidence that USDA expenditures helped reduce TSS and SL in the Raccoon River. TA was more effective than FA in reducing TSS levels in the watershed. Our empirical model represents an initial, broad-scale attempt to correlate conservation expenditures to a specific water quality outcome, although more work is needed to disentangle the impacts associated with other unexplored factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-383
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


  • Erosion reduction
  • Sediment load
  • Soil erosion
  • Statistical modeling
  • Suspended sediment
  • USDA conservation programs


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