Monday, May 4, 2015

Member in the news: Marc Ribaudo

Conservation Programs Have Limited Impact on Waterways 

USDA Economist -- Greenwire
Source: Greenwire (1 May 2015)
Author: Tiffany Stecker
(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) A senior economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, writing in Choices magazine, says the agency must reframe how it implements its voluntary conservation programs if it wants to effectively address water quality programs. Marc Ribuado said current programs are unable to address large-scale agricultural pollution, such as runoff in the Mississippi River or the Chesapeake Bay. "While some water quality metrics have improved in some agriculturally influenced watersheds, others have deteriorated and more generally, outcomes have remained short of established water quality goals," he said. The problems, said Ribuado, are that non-point-source pollution discharges are unevenly shared among farmers and that farmers typically enroll in conservation programs for their own self-interest, rather than the societal need for clean water. Ribuado suggests that conservation advocates need to tap into farmers’ entrepreneurial character to achieve better results. The USDA should also introduce compliance measures that require certain results to be considered eligible. "By linking payments to practice costs rather than the provision of environmental outcomes, voluntary financial assistance programs limit the ability of farmers to act entrepreneurially or to introduce innovative ideas into conservation management,” he wrote. Suzy Friedman, the director of agricultural sustainability at the Environmental Defense Fund, said voluntary programs are limited due to the relatively small pot of money available, the cumbersome paperwork process, and the fact that the majority of agricultural landowners get their advice from private companies, not the federal government. Engaging the private sector, she said, "is how…we are going to get to scale and get to scale in those significant areas. You need to go through the advisers that they trust." The article in Choices is available at: more

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