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Ecosystem Sustainability Framework | NRCS Economics

 The Ecosystem Sustainability Framework for County Analysis project highlights the economic and environmental health of agricultural counties within the same MLRA, using easily available data. It allows NRCS to better target workloads and programs to these areas. This method is patterned after the sustainability model used by Gomez et al., 1996. The model assumes an agricultural system is sustainable if it meets the needs of the farmer, and conserves the natural resources. Indicators are selected for each of the concerns, and threshold levels of sustainability are established. The threshold for an indicator is either an average for the entire data set or another acceptable minimum value. A score of one or higher indicates that the system is sustainable. Systems can also be compared at the indicator level for individual resource concerns.

    • Summary - Ecosystem Sustainability Framework for County Analysis (Decision-Aid Tools for Natural Resource Analysis)
      Indicat.pdf (PDF, 205 KB)
    • MS Word Summary (Report on Adopting the Gomez Ecosystem Indicators)
      rprt_adpt_gmzec.doc (DOC, 1061 KB)
    • Measuring the Sustainability of Ag. Systems at the Farm Level 1996 by Dr. Gomez, Kelly, and Syers
      gomez.pdf (PDF, 1435 KB)
    • SWCS PowerPoint Presentation
      swcs_presentatn.ppt (PPT, 430 KB)
    • State of the Land Conference Poster
      swcs_poster.ppt (PPT, 589 KB)
    • Detail Results per Indicator
      Gomez5.doc (DOC, 495 KB)
    • List of Measure, Summary Excel Spreadsheet
      list_of_measure.xls (XLS, 406 KB)
    • Access database with example queries
      gomez105.mdb (MDB, 8.6 MB)

This study shows methods of obtaining indicators for one Major Land Resource Area (MLRA), selecting the best combination of economic and environmental indicators, and developing indices for economic and environmental sustainability. This method is based on a sustainability model used in the Philippines. Twenty-nine counties within MLRA 105 in SW-WI, NR-IA, SE-MN and NW-IL were studied initially. A second phase works with a North and South Carolina watershed, and a third phase is looking at soil quality nationwide using primarily NRI data. The indicators tested were derived from common nationally available databases: Natural Resources Inventory (NRI), Agricultural Census, National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) Crop Production Statistics, and the Conservation Tillage Information Center (CTIC) Tillage Survey, soils data, and EPIC model output. Indicators on: yield, yield trends, net cash return/acre, long-term change in land values, % farms with net losses, % cropland acres eroding over T, average cropland and non cropland erosion (separate measures), % tree cover, conservation tillage, and crop rotation were successful indicators. Indicators on: net cash return per farm, farm tenure, yield variance, total acres eroding over T, non-cropland acres eroding over T, and average cropland erosion were determined not to be useful indicators in MLRA 105. Results on these economic and environmental indexes show minor correlation between long-term economic and environmental performance.

Key Words: sustainability indicators, Gomez, workload analysis, MLRA 105, economics, soil quality, social concerns.