The Biophilia Foundation, a non-profit organization, and partners, Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage and Water Stewardship Inc., anticipate that credits will appreciate in value as a legislative framework for nutrient trading is established in the Chesapeake Bay.
Agricultural, Ecological and Regulatory Context
Agriculture presents a critical opportunity for restoring water quality and biodiversity through market-based mechanisms for environmental services in the Chesapeake Bay region. The Bay is the largest estuary in the United States.
Agriculture, which occupies 25 percent of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, provides both an avenue to reduce nutrient pollution, and to cultivate the ecosystem services upon which the region depends.
Environmental markets can leverage public and private funds to compensate farmers for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from their fields, increase carbon sequestration, and conserve biodiversity. Markets provide an opportunity to change farmer behavior.
Mudford Farm Profile
This case study focuses on one of the pilot efforts to create markets for nutrient trading in the Chesapeake Bay. On the Mudford farm, there were strategically placed buffers and wetlands to filter nutrients used on crop fields, and provide habitat for waterfowl, quail, wild turkey, and other animal species. The case study focused on land redevelopment and crediting.
The Biophilia Foundation foresees future opportunities for protecting the ecosystem service value of Mudford Farm in perpetuity, aside from the 10 acres that are already protected in permanent easement through Maryland Department of the Environment.
Scaling Up: Challenges & Opportunities
The time and money that went into the redevelopment plan at Mudford Farm is likely beyond the reach of most farmers. Nonetheless, the experience provides an important vision of successful strategies for establishing a marketplace for nutrient reduction credits and related services in the Chesapeake Bay.
The land redevelopment and crediting process used at Mudford could be replicated on other properties. It is important to note, however, that the financial success of projects like Mudford depends on a number of factors and is not a “one size fits all” type of scenario. These variables include the quality of the soils, the irrigation potential of the farm, the proximity to markets, the proximity to populations of migratory birds, how much hunting pressure a site can take, and who farms and owns the land.
Payments for environmental services present an important opportunity to build on existing conservation programs through the Farm Bill, as demonstrated by the pilot example on Mudford Farm.
To scale up a model similar to Mudford, a broad range of public, private, and civil sector actors would need to be mobilized. Policy reform could create a framework for nutrient trading in the Chesapeake with the potential to offer farmers financially and agriculturally viable alternatives to intensive crop and poultry farming. Landowners could benefit from technical assistance and financial incentives to change the current land management regimen. New tools for valuing environmental services would need to be integrated and utilized to reach the goal of a restored Chesapeake Bay.