Skip to:
  1. Main navigation
  2. Main content
  3. Footer
Economic Commentary

Soil Conservation: Market Failure and Program Performance

Since the days of the Dust Bowl, policy analysts and policymakers have worried that uninformed and/or indifferent farmers might wear out the very resource most crucial to their livelihood-the soil. In the 1970s and 1980s, this concern has intensified as part of a growing awareness of natural resource scarcity and environmental quality issues. This Economic Commentary examines the economic rationale behind soil conservation programs, assesses the magnitude of the soil erosion problem, and evaluates the effectiveness of current U.S. soil conservation policies. In addition, this article analyzes the reasons why these programs have failed to meet all of their objectives, and it illustrates some common problems in making and carrying out public policy.

The views authors express in Economic Commentary are theirs and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The series editor is Tasia Hane. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This paper and its data are subject to revision; please visit for updates.

Suggested Citation

Wyckoff, Paul Gary. 1983. “Soil Conservation: Market Failure and Program Performance.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Economic Commentary 1/24/1983.