Food, water, and worker protection regulations have driven availability, and loss, of pesticides for use in pest management programs. In response, public-supported research and extension projects have targeted investigation and demonstration of reduced-risk integrated pest management (IPM) techniques. But these new techniques often result in higher financial burden to the grower, which is counter to the IPM principle that economic competitiveness is critical to have IPM adopted. As authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), conservation programs exist for delivering public-supported financial incentives to growers to increase environmental stewardship on lands in production. NRCS conservation programs are described, and the case for providing financial incentives to growers for implementing IPM is presented. We also explored the opportunity and challenge to use one key program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), to aid grower adoption of IPM. The EQIP fund distribution to growers from 1997 to 2002 during the last Farm Bill cycle totaled ≈$ 1.05 billion with a portion of funds supporting an NRCS-designed pest management practice. The average percentage of allocation of EQIP funds to this pest management practice among states was 0.77 ± 0.009% (mean ± SD). Using Michigan as an example, vegetable and fruit grower recognition of the program’s use to implement IPM was modest (25% of growers surveyed), and their recognition of its use in aiding implementation of IPM was improved after educational efforts (74%). Proposals designed to enhance program usefulness in implementing IPM were delivered through the NRCS advisory process in Michigan. Modifications for using the NRCS pest management practice to address resource concerns were adopted, incentive rates for pest management were adjusted, and an expanded incentive structure for IPM technique adoption was tabled for future consideration. The case is strong for using public-supported financial incentives offered by the EQIP to aid grower adoption of IPM as a means to address resource concerns, but current use of the EQIP for this purpose is modest to meager. With appropriate program adjustments and increased grower awareness, USDA NRCS conservation programs, and the EQIP in particular, may provide an important opportunity for growers to increase their use of IPM as a resource conservation and farm management tool.
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Vol. 97 • No. 6