The specific stewardship practices that farmers will be compensated for will be selected by stakeholders in the federal process.
The RIPE Roadmap proposes the following set of qualifying measures because they represent opportunities in key agricultural sectors, have established assurance protocols, strong scientific evidence, and are widely-accepted as best management practices for greenhouse gas benefits, water quality, and soil health.
- Cover crops – using EQIP protocol;
- Precision nutrient management -protocol TBD, perhaps EQIP or CCAR;
- Organic – USDA certification;
- Improved manure management – EQIP protocols for covering ponds and solids separator;
- Grazing optimization – protocols TBD and may include rotational or legume planting;
- Water conservation – protocols from California’s State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program
An advisory group of farmers, scientists, and environmental advocates will review the latest science and technology to update the payment design and qualifying measures over time, to address any potential unintended consequences and evolving local needs. Additional qualifying measures may be added, based on stakeholder input and future years of regulatory refinement. The regulatory principle will be to provide profit-oriented payments to farmers, not cost-share payments, for science-based practices that provide important societal benefits.
Verification protocols will be based on existing protocols such as USDA EQIP, when possible. This is not an agricultural “offset” nor water quality trading program, both of which require strict verification protocols because the level of pollution reduced is tied to an increasing level of pollution allowed to a regulated sector. The RIPE payments are not tied to the level of regulated sector pollution, so there is no need for the extremely strict verification protocols nor the “additionality” concerns that plagued prior environmental policies with high costs and farmer opposition. This policy is appropriately implemented with protocols that provide reasonable assurance, the way the overwhelming majority of government programs operate.
Farmers will be offered a guaranteed price for any practices conducted with protocols (unlike agricultural offset policies). The specific payment level, design, and caps will be determined by a working group of technical experts and stakeholders, and will aim to leverage the work underway with coalitions and stakeholders, such as the crediting protocol being developed by Noble Research Institute’s Ecosystem Service Market Program.