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USDA and EPA Give Farmers Water Quality Incentives

New trading agreement offers market-based incentives for farmers and ranchers to improve water quality.

USDA and EPA signed a partnership agreement Friday to establish and promote water quality credit trading markets through cooperative conservation.

"Trading for upgrading water quality is the wave of the future," says Benjamin Grumbles, Assistant Administrator of the EPA's Office of Water.

The agreement features a pilot project in the Chesapeake Bay basin to demonstrate the effectiveness of environmental markets.

Water quality credit trading uses a market-based approach that offers incentives to farmers and ranchers who implement conservation practices that improve water quality.  While reducing pollution, farmers and ranchers can earn credits which they can then trade with industrial or municipal facilities that are required by the Clean Water Act and other laws to reduce the amounts of pollution in wastewater.

The USDA and EPA think that voluntary, incentive based methods are the most effective when dealing with private lands, says USDA Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary Mark Rey. "Water quality credit trading is a flexible, cost-effective approach for implementing conservation practices that reduce runoff, help producers meet water quality standards, and pursue water quality improvement goals in watersheds."

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