Agriculture and the environment are interconnected. A healthy environment, including soil and water quality, is necessary for successful crop and livestock production. However, crop production can diminish habitat for wildlife, while soil erosion, nutrient and pesticide runoff, and irrigation can pollute the air and water, degrade soil quality, and diminish water supplies. The connections between agricultural production and environmental quality are complex and vary widely across the country.

ERS examines the relationship between agriculture and environmental quality by analyzing the use and efficacy of conservation practices; environmental impacts of production practices and management decisions; and the role of Federal programs and policies related to:

  • Soil health, including the effect of wind and water erosion;
  • Water quality, including the impact of sediment, and chemical/pesticide and nutrient runoff;
  • Air quality, including the role of soil particulates, farm chemicals, and odor from livestock;
  • Wildlife habitat, including habitat fragmentation and loss of landscape diversity; and
  • Wetlands, including the loss of water filtration, wildlife habitat, and other ecosystem services.

ERS also conducts research on the suite of policy tools that encourage farmers to adopt practices that protect and enhance environmental quality.