Pay-for-Performance Agricultural Conservation: Rabbit River Watershed

Photo by Brian Talsma, Allegan Conservation District

Project Background

This project addressed sediment loading associated with agricultural sources, such as cropland erosion, livestock access, and road/bridge crossings that impacts habitat and water quality in the Rabbit River through a performance-based program for implementing agricultural best management practices. In addition to targeting sedimentation, the project also provided co-benefits of addressing other pollutants such as nutrients and pathogens, largely stemming from livestock access, and pesticides/chemicals, resulting from cropland erosion.

Traditionally, conservation programs offer cost-sharing for approved practices with limited monitoring of environmental outcomes. Performance-based programs are a targeted approach to investing in conservation when when traditional funding is limited. Instead of paying for specific farm practices, this project directs payments that are based on the net environmental improvements resulting from a comprehensive set of practices.

 

Project Description

Through this project, farmers received payments to implement conservation practices on their cropland that are based on the estimated effectiveness of those practices. The project team developed and applied advanced modeling tools to estimate reductions. This approach marks a fundamental change from the traditional approach of paying farmers a percentage of the cost of implementing conservation practices.

This project has engaged producers to install best management practices on approximately 2,600 acres at priority locations in the Rabbit River watershed in order to reduce sediment loading by approximately 1,500 tons. It also provides a model performance based conservation programs and demonstrates the success of such programs.

 

Project Partners

  • Allegan County Conservation District
  • Michigan Farm Bureau
  • Michigan State University Water Resource Institute

 

 

Additional content coming soon!

If you have any questions about the project or the content on this page, contact Olga Lyandres, Ph.D., at olyandres@delta-institute.org.

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