Phosphorus Reduction Auction in the Kalamazoo River Watershed

Photo by Harrison Fitts

Project Background

This project aims to reduce excessive phosphorus loading in the Kalamazoo River Watershed associated with agricultural sources through a market and performance-based agricultural incentive program. Performance-based programs can provide a more targeted approach to investing in conservation when program funding is limited. Instead of paying for implementing a particular conservation practice, such as cover crops or riparian buffers, in terms of acres or feet, farmer payments are based on the net environmental improvements that arise from that practice. To drive efficiency and optimize cost effectiveness, the performance payment for pollution reduction can be further tied to a market-based credit trading program where transactions can be structured as bilateral trades, sole-source offsets, an auction, or an exchange market.


Project Description

Through this project, we will implement a reverse auction to incentivize farmers to implement conservation practices on their cropland to reduce nutrient losses. In a reverse auction, farmers will enter bids to provide phosphorus loading reductions at the lowest cost by implementing conservation practices. The program will pay farmers whose bids are accepted for those reductions. The payments will be based on estimates of reduction expected and farmers’ ability to implement the practices at a cost lower than the maximum allowable price set by the program. The project team will utilize advanced modeling tools to estimate reductions.

This project will lead to improved ecological conditions in the targeted watersheds as a result of reductions in phosphorus loading with up to 6,600 acres, roughly 24 percent of the sub-watershed’s cropland, enrolled in the program. The project aims to reduce phosphorus loading by approximately 5,000 pounds over the three year project.


Key Resources

The additional resources below also contain helpful information about the project and the tools that have been developed by the project team.

REQUIRED: Auction Materials

The links below provide the materials required to participate in the Phosphorus Reduction Auction, including auction rules, bid application forms, and frequently asked questions.

Required Auction Materials Packet
Bid Application Form
Frequently Asked Questions

Informational Meetings

The events below will provide more information about how to participate in the Phosphorus Reduction Auction. Recordings of the events will be posted here shortly after the events conclude.


December 10 at 1 p.m. Eastern
January 7 at 7 p.m. Eastern

Project Area Map

The area shown on the map below displays the land eligible for participation in the reverse auction. Zoom in on the map to explore the project area in greater detail.

Contact Information

If you have any questions about the project or the content on this page, email

Project Partners

  • Allegan County Conservation District
  • Michigan Farm Bureau


Funding Information

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement GL00E02796 to Delta Institute. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.

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