Communicating the Economic Benefits of Conservation
Maine NRCS recently participated in Maine Farm Days, an agricultural exhibition designed to educate the public about agriculture on a working dairy farm. NRCS hosted a conservation wagon tour around the farm, where participants learned about conservation practices.
One stop along the tour emphasized the economics of natural resources conservation. Displays were produced to show conservation benefits and costs at the farm, state, and national levels.
Three broad topics were addressed: the fertilizer value of manure on Maine dairy farms; the economic benefits to Maine of keeping lakes free of pollutants; and the economic benefits and costs to the nation of the EQIP program.
Specific key points emphasized during the wagon tour included:
The high capital investment required to install practices such as waste storage structures. The storage structure shown on the tour cost over half a million dollars. This educated tour participants about the need for cost-share programs.
Estimates of the potential value to Maine dairy farms of utilizing manure ranged from $5,200 to $25,300 annually, depending on the farm size.
The University of Maine estimated the net economic benefits of avoiding measurable water quality degradation in Maine lakes.
The economic benefits of investing in conservation programs such as EQIP. The USDA EQIP Benefit Cost Analysis (May 2003) estimated that the program will provide $3.6 billion in net benefits from 2002 to 2007.
Describing the effects of conservation in dollar terms can help the public grasp its importance.
John Long, USDA-NRCS Maine
Address: USDA-NRCS, 967 Illinois Avenue, Suite 3, Bangor, ME 04401