Program provides performance-based payments to Vermont farmers for reducing phosphorus runoff
January 5, 2023 | Montpelier VT - The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the Vermont Pay for Performance (VPFP) program. VPFP is a new and innovative program that uses environmental modeling to provide performance-based payments to Vermont farmers for reducing phosphorus (P) losses from their agricultural fields.
Applications for the 2023 VPFP Program are due by January 20, 2023. All applications will be competitively ranked and reviewed. To be eligible to apply, you must manage hay, crop, or pastureland in Vermont, have an up-to-date Nutrient Management Plan that meets the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) for your farm size, including recent soil and manure tests, and ensure that your farm business is registered with the USDA Farm Service Agency.
Selected applicants will receive a modest stipend to enter their whole farm management data into the online Farm Phosphorus Reduction Planner (FarmPREP) tool at $15 per acre up to $4,000. There is assistance available for the data entry process. Fifty-three farms enrolled in VPFP in 2022 and worked to enter their management data into FarmPREP. This environmental modeling tool calculates average annual phosphorus losses on individual fields using field management information, soil test results, soil layers and local weather data. FarmPREP allows farmers and conservation planners to directly see how a farm’s current phosphorus management aligns with Vermont’s water quality goals. Reductions are calculated from a baseline derived from the field management assumptions used in the Lake Champlain Basin Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
If program participants demonstrate sufficient phosphorus reductions on their operations, they will have the opportunity to be selected for larger performance-based contracts. Phosphorus reductions compensated under this program typically result from the implementation of conservation practices like cover crops, buffers, crop rotations, manure injection, nutrient management planning, rotational grazing, no-till and reduced tillage. Forty-nine farm participants were awarded phosphorus reduction grant agreements with an average award of $18,000 for 2022.
“This program is beneficial to Vermont farmers because it evaluates what each individual farm is doing on an annual basis to reduce their own phosphorus loss,” said Geoff Sweeney, an organic dairy farmer in St. Albans, VT, who was a first-year participant in the program in 2022. “It also provides valuable information about average phosphorus losses on each of our fields so we can better plan on where to focus our conservation and nutrient planning efforts in the future.”
The VPFP program is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under a Regional Conservation Partnership Program Alternate Funding Arrangement. For more information on the Vermont Pay for Performance program visit www.agriculture.vermont.gov/VPFP .
Image: Drilled cover crops take root on a farm in Waterford, VT.