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Environmental Markets Toolkit

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Ecosystem services such as clean water and greenhouse gas emissions reductions can only be bought and sold if the buyers and sellers are confident that the water is actually cleaner and that greenhouse gas emissions are truly reduced. In some cases, these changes in environmental quality can be directly measured. In other cases, direct measurement is challenging, cost-prohibitive, or both.

NRCS develops online tools and data for estimating and quantifying the environmental benefits of land management actions. Below are links to these tools.

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COMET-Farm - A whole farm and ranch carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system. COMET-Farm estimates the greenhouse gas impacts of alternative land management scenarios. Greenhouse gas markets use COMET-Farm to estimate the amount of carbon stored or greenhouse gas emissions impacts of conservation practices implemented by farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners.

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COMET-Planner - An evaluation tool designed to provide generalized estimates of the greenhouse gas impacts of conservation practices for initial planning purposes. Use COMET-Farm if you would like to conduct a more detailed analysis.

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Nutrient Tracking Tool - A water quality estimator designed to quantify the change in nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment loss potential from changes in land management practices. The tool also estimates changes in crop yield. NTT is used by water quality trading programs to model the water quality benefits from conservation practices implemented on cropland. An updated, USDA-verified version of NTT is under development and is scheduled for release in late 2015.  This tool can be used with the NRCS Natural Resources Trading Reference.

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Water Quality Index for Runoff from Agricultural Fields (WQI) - a tool that is simpler and easier to use than NTT, the WQI can quickly provide a relative index score that broadly estimates edge-of-field water quality. A rating of 10 represents excellent water quality, while a 1 would indicate a landowner has significant water quality challenges.

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Rapid Carbon Assessment - The Rapid Carbon Assessment (RaCA) is an extensive database on soil carbon, a product of the largest concentrated soil sampling effort in the history of soil survey. RaCA is the most extensive database on soil organic and inorganic carbon in the United States.

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Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Sequestration Ranking Tool - A qualitative ranking that indicates in very broad terms the greenhouse gas benefits of NRCS conservation practice standards.