Regenerative Agriculture and Payment for Ecosystem Services

PRS Briefs
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Regenerative agriculture may provide numerous benefits to the state of Vermont, including increased food security and ecosystem conservation; however, this approach may be much more expensive to farmers than conventional practices. Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), a process whereby farmers receive monetary or in-kind compensation for protecting various ecosystem assets, offers a potential solution to this dilemma. This report includes a summary of PES literature as well as a case study analysis of prior and existing PES programs in a variety of contexts. By breaking down the case studies into specific, relevant dimensions, we have established policy options for structuring a payment system that may appropriately and efficiently incentivize regenerative agriculture, should the Agriculture and Forestry Committee seek to promote regenerative agriculture. These policy options include balancing the involvement of market and government actors, avoiding strict and overly complicated contracts, and framing the program with market-specific language. Additionally, programs that target a specific ecosystem service and establish efficient measurement systems may be most effective. Finally, a successful PES system would seek to build coalitions of many actors, heavily involve the participation and voices of local communities, and establish a feedback system for involved landowners. We hope that these policy options will provide the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry with greater context and information for seeking to design a Vermont specific PES program.