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Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group


Act 83 of 2019 directed the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets to convene a "Soil Conservation Practice and Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group", with membership determined by the Legislature. The purpose of this Working Group (PES Working Group) is to recommend financial incentives designed to encourage farmers in Vermont to implement agricultural practices that improve soil health, enhance crop resilience, increase carbon storage and stormwater storage capacity, and reduce agricultural runoff to waters. Membership in the Working Group is directed by this Act. 

Following several recommendations of the PES Working Group as laid out in the January 15 2020 Report to Legislature, Act 129 of 2020 amended Act 83 of 2019 to rename the "Payment for Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group," to establish this Working Group until January 2022,  to direct the inclusion of several additional seats on this Working Group, and to lay out the charges for this Working Group. 
The Payment for Ecosystem Services Working Group held public meetings biweekly between September 2019 and January 2023. Materials, agendas and recordings related to each meeting are available at PES WG Meetings and Materials. Webinars were held occasionally between meetings: recordings are shared at PES Working Group Webinars.


Between 2019 and 2023, VAAFM and the other members of the Payment For Ecosystem Services & Soil Health Working Group developed a vision for a payment for ecosystem services program which fills gaps in current financial and technical assistance programs and supports the environmental and economic health of Vermont farms and the broader ecosystem. After extensive learning and deliberation, this group threw their weight behind a recommendation first proposed by a group of small farmers: to create a pilot program to supplement payments to farmers in Vermont who participate in the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP is the nation’s largest PES program but was underutilized in Vermont. Link to Final Working Group Report. VAAFM took this recommendation and put together the Vermont Farmer Ecosystem Stewardship Program, a pilot program starting in 2023 that will supplement CSP payments with one-time flat-rate incentive payments for participating farmers.

Final Working Group Report to Legislature

Additional Resources:

PES Working Group Background & Announcement


 PES WG Meetings and Materials (including Agendas & registration links)


Report to Legislature Jan 15 2020


PES Working Group Extended by Act 129 of 2020


PES Working Group Membership 2021


Interim PES Working Group Update Feb 2022


Final Working Group Report to Legislature