Ecosystem Services in Working Lands: US Northeast

Part 1: Project Overview


Funded by the Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED) and the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NERA) with advisory support from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NERCRD), this ecosystem services landscape assessment disseminates primary source data related to ecosystem services practices, policies, and organizations of the U.S. Northeast. The assessment is intended to build capacity and expand the portfolio of the Cooperative Exte nsion and Agricultural Research Station System’s work in supporting producers to deliver ecosystem services on working lands, with a goal to: increase farm 1 profitability and sustainability; position agriculture as a primary leader in mitigating climate change; build resiliency of rural and urban communities; and increase the appeal of agricultural professions to a wide range of young people. In support of such goals, the research objectives of the project were described in the Request for Proposals and are the following: Increase the knowledge that Northeast Land Grant University (LGU) Extension and Research partners and producers have about current Northeast agricultural ecosystem services activities, opportunities, and gaps. • Integrate fragmented knowledge for future program, practice, and policy design. • Encourage dialogue among producers, LGU Extension and Research programs, and policymakers. • • Inform the design and audience of a series of virtual listening sessions and a working symposium. • Along with the results from the virtual listening sessions and the working symposium, inform the potential development of funding streams and integrated Extension and research activities, policy proposals, and more.


Our scope of work was driven by four research objectives as laid out in the original RFP:

• Identify the organizational scope of relevant policies and programs. • Document ag-related practices that procure ecosystem functions/services. • Report the breadth of incentives and rewards offered to ag-related producers for ecosystem function/service practices. • Describe producers’ strategies to advertise ecosystem functions/services and boost revenue. This landscape assessment is grounded in a database of incentives programs and based on a review of select scholarly literature, internet research, and baseline documentation provided by the members of NEED and NERA. This database catalogs various types of incentive structures (e.g., financial mechanisms, programs, partnerships) that fund specific practices in agriculture, animal husbandry, and land management and, as result, procure ecosystem functions and services (e.g., water conservation, soil conservation, carbon sequestration). The geography of interest focuses exclusively on the U.S. Northeast and covers the following states, commonwealths, and districts: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. Through the duration of the project, the Fellows team met for at least one hour, once per week, between June and November 2021.

1 Through this report, the term “farm” broadly includes a number of working lands and affiliated practices, including agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, and fish or water-based cultivation.


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