Georgia Cost-share Program: Needs and Considerations
Bramblett, Jimmy R.
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Georgia agriculture is a critical component of the state's economy, generating $38.9 billion dollars annually. Of this total individual producers collectively generated $7.9 billion dollars despite being subjected to extreme climatic and market conditions over the past three years. However, the average net farm income was only $24,203 for 1997. In fact, some 58 percent of Georgia farms reported a net loss during that year. At the same time increasing concerns over water quality have resulted in new regulations requiring the adoption of practices imposing a significant cost to individual producers. A statewide agricultural cost-share program has been suggested as one possible tool to help producers offset the direct out-of- pocket expenses associated with conservation adoption. Georgia currently receives a limited amount of federal funds to mitigate the costs of implementing conservation practices. Unfortunately, these funds provide less than one- tenth of one percent of estimated needs. In 2000, the Natural Resources Conservation Service [NRCS], through local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, provided $2.8 million to 417 land users under the agency's primary cost- share program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program [EQIP]. During this same period, over 2,100 applicants requested an estimated $14 million in cost-share funds. The need for a statewide cost-share program is evident; however, setting up such a program requires structural and organizational components be in place for successful administration.