This survey was commissioned by the Vermont Soil Health and Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group (VT PES Working Group) to gather farmer input on the development of payment for ecosystem services (PES) in Vermont for agriculture. In particular, the survey was intended to help set appropriate levels of compensation for participation in a soil health PES program, although additional information was gathered in the survey to inform the development of a new incentive program. The VT PES Working Group has explored the potential for a performance-based soil health PES program that would compensate farmers on the basis of environmental performance, as indicated through measurable soil health indicators. While much research-based and local knowledge can be leveraged to determine appropriate practice-based payments, information on setting adequate levels of payment for performance-based payment rates is sparse.
This survey report presents data which can be used to gauge the range of payment levels that should be offered by a new soil health PES program in Vermont. It also includes information about Vermont farmers environmental knowledge and attitudes, program design preferences, opinions and motivations. In the development of the survey, we determined that direct questions about payment rates based on units of ecological outcomes or soil health metrics would not yield meaningful information in a survey format. Instead, we aimed to estimate minimum and preferred levels of compensation based on the time burden required to participate in a performance-based soil health. Accordingly, we asked farmers to estimate the amount of time it would take them to complete soil sampling and data reporting, and then we asked them for fair hourly rates for those activities. Follow-up interviews were proposed to generate more meaningful information about payment levels.
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White, A. 2022. Results of the 2022 Vermont Farmer Conservation and Payment for Ecosystem Services Survey. Vermont Payment for Ecosystem Services Technical Research Report #3a. University of Vermont
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