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Innovation in Conservation - A New Slate of NRCS Environmental Markets Projects

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.

USDA Marketing Orders Help Industries Climb to New Heights

Every successful business must have a solid plan to successfully take it from the initial startup phase all the way through its push to expand its operations after the business matures. The same can be said for an industry looking to reach new heights in its lifecycle. A concerted emphasis must be placed on strengthening research, product development, and marketing efforts. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees 28 fruit and vegetable marketing order boards and committees. These entities develop regulations that moderate the flow of high quality produce, benefitting growers, handlers, and consumers. These groups also create research, marketing, and promotional campaigns that help expand the reach of the industry’s products. 

Through the AMS Marketing Order and Agreement Division (MOAD), industries approach the agency to establish a way to overcome marketing barriers. These efforts help growers and handlers within a geographic area increase their sales. The issues the committees focus on vary. For example, the Pistachio Marketing Order established reporting and Aflatoxin testing requirements on inshell and shelled pistachios. Pistachios produced in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are now required to be certified as meeting certain minimum quality requirements that are established by the Administrative Committee for Pistachios (ACP).