Illinois Soil Health Incentive Program (SHIP)


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

The Conservation Fund, Delta Institute, and Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) collaborated to develop and test a framework for an Illinois-centric program that would offer farmers financial incentives to implement soil health practices under a ‘pay-for-outcomes’ model. The programmatic framework was based on research of existing soil health programs in other states, with an emphasis on California’s Healthy Soils Initiative, along with an evaluation of existing soil health protocols being developed for compliance and voluntary carbon markets. The Illinois program was designed to provide financial incentives to Illinois farmers and producers to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), and improve soil health, with incentive payments based on greenhouse gas reductions estimated by using modeled county-level quantification methods. The program was intended to align with the state’s GHG reduction goals and advance other statewide objectives, such as the Nutrient Loss Recovery Strategy targets.

The resulting Illinois Soil Health Incentive Program (SHIP) was designed to:

  • Provide a simple and transparent program framework to increase adoption of soil health practices on Illinois farmland and mitigate climate change;
  • Offer financial support for farmers based on anticipated results rather than payment for practices; and
  • Ensure local technical assistance capacity by partnering with Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and using existing contracting pathways that are already familiar to farmers, such as Partners for Conservation (PFC).

Delta’s role in designing and implementing SHIP included collaborating on program design, practice research, practice quantification and evaluation, payment framework creation, and administrative structure development and implementation.

Learnings from this project have informed our many Soil Health and Land Valuation efforts that are operating throughout the Midwest today.


We are grateful to the Conservation Fund and their leadership, and to the Champaign County Conservation District.


We are grateful to the Lumpkin Family Foundation for their support of this project.

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