Farm Sustainability Rewards Project


Innovating On-farm Conservation Practices

Header image: Contour farming, photo by Jim Klousia

Wisconsin’s Green Fire (WGF), in partnership with Clean Wisconsin, is leading a two-year Farm Sustainability Rewards (FSR) Project. Funding for this project comes from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The FSR Project will design a pilot program, with stakeholder input, aimed at rewarding farms that meet clear farm-wide sustainability performance benchmarks on a voluntary basis. The goal of this project is to identify increasingly protective and quantifiable benchmarks for allowable soil erosion rates, nitrogen and phosphorus losses, and GHG emissions for each tier of performance.

Wisconsin farmers have a long tradition as committed conservationists. Yet, market realities and the current structure of government farm incentive programs too often result in failure to protect water quality in farm country and beyond. As a result, contamination of water supplies (from phosphorus, nitrates, bacteria, etc.) still threatens human health and the environment. These water quality issues effect an increasing number of rural residents in Wisconsin and surrounding regions.

Unlike one-time cost-share programs that focus on isolated practices, this project will develop the structure to offer qualifying producers annual per-acre financial reward payments for achieving key environmental goals on a continuing, farm-wide basis. The project will use field-tested models to estimate a farm’s average “footprint per acre” for soil erosion, nutrient loss and GHG emissions based on relevant farm characteristics and practices. Farms that do better in each of these categories (soil erosion, nutrient losses, and GHG emissions) can earn higher rewards.

We believe that more positive outcomes are possible if we reassess investments in farm conservation through voluntary efforts. WGF members have been working for several years on better methods to use our investments that support farmers and farm conservation. With the FSR Project, the time has arrived to move forward with innovative approaches to on-farm conservation. We’re excited to model and test these ideas at scale.

As the project progresses, we’ll be bringing on dedicated staff and a larger team of stakeholders to help develop and refine ideas and envision new ways of supporting farmers while conserving working lands and our state’s most precious resource, clean water.

Source: David Mark from Pixabay
Wisconsin landscape, image by David Mark via Pixabay

FSR Project Staff

Learn more and apply on our Employment page.