MONTPELIER — The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) recently opened applications for the new Vermont Pay for Phosphorus (VPFP) program, one of the first of its kind in the United States. VAAFM received a $7 million grant award from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in September of 2020, enabling the Agency to launch a statewide Vermont Pay for Phosphorus (VPFP) Program to further expand and support agriculture’s role in delivering clean water results for Vermont. The program will provide $4.9 million in direct payments to farms over 4 years for successful phosphorus management.
Vermont farmers wishing to apply for the program have until January 31, 2022 to do so. To encourage participation in the VPFP Program, farmers who successfully enroll will be eligible for an initial payment of up to $4,000 per farm. Ultimately VAAFM hopes to work with 40 to 50 farms on data entry this year and to enroll 20 to 30 farms for an additional phosphorus reduction payment of up to $50,000 per farm in 2022. Participants will have the opportunity to manage the requirements of this program independently, or to work with local Natural Resources Conservation District personnel at no cost to the farmer. This innovative, flexible, cost-efficient payment approach supports conservation where it is most effective and gives farmers options to implement conservation practices they know will work for their own operations.
Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, including as past chairman, said: “Vermont’s farmers are good stewards of the land. This program will help provide them with the financial support they need to further improve that legacy of stewardship. It will help them to protect the waterways we all share. I congratulate the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for creating this program that will reward good, climate-smart agricultural practices, while empowering farmers with the flexibility to make on-farm decisions that best suit their land. I thank NRCS for funding this program, which reflects exactly the innovation we hoped to see when we included the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills.”
The VPFP will build on the success of the current state and partner clean water implementation efforts and Vermont’s engaged farmers. Agriculture was responsible for 97% of the reported phosphorus reductions in the Lake Champlain Basin in State Fiscal Year 2019 – and achieved these reductions with the most cost-effective rate of implementation in any sector. This new program will accelerate agricultural water quality improvements with new funding and a new strategy for incentivizing and valuing farmer’s agricultural land stewardship efforts.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott said, “Farmers have already been key partners, making great strides improving the environment, and this innovate approach gives them another tool to improve water quality, while rewarding them financially for the management of their land.”
“Vermont farmers have shown us time and time again that they are innovators and lead the way at improving water quality,” VAAFM Secretary Anson Tebbetts said. “This program will not only provide payment for that important work, but also give Vermont farms tools to keep their conservation momentum moving forward. We encourage all Vermont farmers to take a close look at this new program.”
The launch of this program in Vermont was made possible by a grant from the national USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangement (AFA), and represents the culmination of more than nine years of work by AAFM to engage stakeholders, research new technologies, and model and test innovative conservation systems. The VPFP is also designed to be equitable between geographic areas, farm types, and farm sizes.
To apply or find more information about the Vermont Pay For Performance Agricultural Phosphorus Reduction Program visit: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/VPFP
–Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets