WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2013 – USDA and EPA announced today an expanded partnership to support water quality trading and other market-based approaches that provide benefits to the environment and economy.

The original agreement, first announced in 2006 under the Bush Administration, outlined a water quality trading strategy where farmers could take steps to improve water quality and earn credits, which could then be traded with industrial or municipal facilities that are required by the Clean Water Act and other laws to reduce pollution in their wastewater.  

"New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements."

"EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation's waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "We're excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers."

The Obama administration says it believes cost savings and other economic incentives are key motivators for parties engaged in trading. Water quality trading can also provide additional environmental and economic benefits, such as air quality improvements, enhanced wildlife habitat, carbon capture and storage, and new income and employment opportunities for rural America.

USDA and EPA will:

  • Coordinate and enhance communications and outreach to states, agricultural producers, regulated sources, and interested third parties on water quality trading;
  • Engage expertise across agencies in the review of grants, loans or technical assistance programs focused on water quality trading;
  • Share information on the development of rules and guidance that have the potential to affect water quality trading;
  • Collaborate on developing tools and information resources for states and credit generators to guide decision making, reduce costs in program design and implementation, improve environmental performance, and foster consistency and integrity across regional initiatives;
  • Co-host a workshop by 2015 to share tools and resources available to assist in stakeholder decision-making and opportunities.


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