Cows graze on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD.
“Who better to share the benefits of intensive rotational grazing than farmers who are actually doing it on their lands?” asked Beth L. McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Water Quality Scientist.
Intensive grazing systems, a type of rotational grazing that uses higher per acre stocking rates in smaller grazing or pasture units, can provide multiple benefits for farmers and the environment. These systems can help maintain and enhance farm profitability while reducing labor and input costs. Compared to more traditional confinement operations, intensive grazing can result in improved soil health, an increase in sequestered carbon and decreased emissions of other greenhouse gases. Read more »
50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.
Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal leader in supporting the development of environmental markets, largely through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Among CIG recipients are one of the earliest and most successful water quality trading programs in Ohio’s Great Miami River watershed and the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program, a recipient of the U.S. Water Prize this year. Also through CIG, USDA hosted an event in November 2014 celebrating a first-of-its-kind transaction—the purchase by Chevrolet of carbon credits generated on ranch lands in North Dakota. Read more »
Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets.
This week, I have the privilege of participating in the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska. More than 200 attendees from agriculture, utilities, industry, state agencies, and research institutions gathered at the University of Nebraska’s aptly named “Innovation Center” to think critically about how we can improve and expand water quality markets across the country.
As Secretary Vilsack noted in his introductory video remarks, water quality markets can be effective tools in helping communities improve the quality of their water at lower cost. Markets create financial incentives for private landowners to manage their lands more sustainably to produce cleaner water while generating environmental benefits at lower cost. They promote public awareness of the role sustainable private land management can play in protecting public health and natural ecosystems. They inject private dollars and innovation into efforts to improve water quality – leveraging finite federal funding. Read more »
2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic. (Click for the registration link)
For most people, water quality markets are probably a new concept. They are not something you hear about on the news every day, even though reports frequently cover the need to clean up rivers and lakes. But to some—like states, utilities, and farmers—they represent an opportunity, and should be on the radar.
Water quality markets can reduce costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources with high costs of meeting water quality requirements to purchase credits from sources that have lower costs of making the same water quality improvement. Agricultural producers often have lower costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to supply water quality credits. Read more »
A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award from the U.S. Water Alliance. Photo courtesy NRCS.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2009, the notion of administering the nation’s largest water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin was a twinkle in the eye of EPRI scientist Jessica Fox.
Fast forward to 2015—the multi-state water-trading program is a reality, and the Institute was one of three entities to be awarded this year’s Water Prize by the U.S. Water Alliance. Read more »
At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders to present last week at the A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) Conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.
Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at a large conference. The conference, held in Arlington, Virginia this year, aims to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making by bringing together stakeholders from across the nation and world. Read more »