The Vermont Pay For Performance Program (VPFP) from the Water Quality Division of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is a new and innovative program that provides performance-based payments to Vermont farmers for reducing phosphorus (P) losses from their agricultural fields. While most current conservation programs pay cost-share for practice implementation, VPFP pays for the outcomes of practices: it recognizes that conservation practices generate value to the public and directly compensates farms for that value. This approach also allows us to target our water quality resources towards the highest impact farms and fields with respect to reducing Vermont’s phosphorus losses.
Reductions represent improvements in farm management from the management assumed in the Lake Champlain Basin Total Maximum Daily Load (LCB TMDL). Enrolled farms will be eligible to receive payment for annual net reductions from these historic base loading assumptions, above a threshold set by the program. Farmers will use FarmPREP, the Farm Phosphorus Reduction Planner, a web-application tool that integrates farm management data, agronomic and hydrologic science, and numerical modeling to evaluate reductions in P losses across their farm operation.
$4.9 million are available for farms across 4 years. There are two types of payment available:
First time enrollees, regardless of their P-reductions, are eligible for a data entry payment of $15 per acre they enroll in the program (up to $4,000) to compensate them for the time to work with a TA provider to enter their management data into FarmPREP.
Farms that use FarmPREP to show they have achieved more than a 40% reduction in P-loss will be eligible to receive $100 per pound of phosphorus reductions above that threshold per year, up to an annual cap of $50,000. Additionally, farms that show they have a low average annual P-loss of 1 lbs. P/acre or 0.5 lbs. P/acre are also eligible to receive a stewardship payment of $3 or $8/enrolled acre, respectively.
To be eligible for VPFP program, farms must:
- Be a Farm as defined in the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), operating within Vermont
- Manage crop, hay or pasture land in Vermont
- Ensure that their farm business is registered with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and that all managed land is mapped and in compliance with federal Highly Erodible Land and Wetland regulations. (How to register)
- At the time of application, you must be committed to developing an updated NMP for calendar year 2023. Your NMP information, including up-to-date soil and manure tests, is essential to calculations of your performance under this program.
If you are not registered with FSA or do not have soil or manure tests or an up-to-date Nutrient Management Plan that meets the RAPs for your farm size, you must work to obtain meet those requirements PRIOR to application. Your local Conservation District and/or FSA office can help you with this process.
How to Apply
2024 Application period: January 2 - January 31, 2024
- If you are deemed eligible by NRCS and selected for Management Planning and Data Entry funding, VAAFM will request that you submit the following by March 6, 2024:
- your NMP for 2024
- labeled field maps for all land included in your NMP
- Good Standing Certificate
- Waiver releasing FSA farm maps and/or shapefiles to technical assistance providers
- After submitting this documentation, a grant agreement will be sent to you for your review and signature.
- An informational webinar to assist producers who are interested in applying for the Vermont Pay for Phosphorus Program was held Wednesday January 19th, 2022 from 12:30-1:30pm.
Priorities for Enrollment
Funding for Management Planning and Data Entry will prioritize the following:
- Farms located in areas of Vermont with the highest TMDL phosphorous reductions
- Farms with high levels of conservation practice installation
- Farms with the highest percentage of self-funded field conservation practices
- Farms that demonstrate current and historic dedication to keeping their Nutrient Management Plan and associated records clear, legible, and up to date.
- Farms that meet the criteria for Historically Underserved Producers
- Farms interested in learning from FarmPREP to inform data-driven decision making and comfortable with the uncertainty and co-learning inherent to a new and innovative program.
The Vermont Pay for Performance Program is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Regional Conservation Partnership Program Supplemental Agreement number 2145-A-0368, 2145-A-0553, 2145-A-0551, and 2145-A-0675. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, any reference to specific brands or types of products or services does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for those products or services.