On Thursday Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer announced the intention to create a new office to assist the Secretary of Agriculture in developing new technical guidelines and science-based methods for assessing environmental service benefits. The Ecosystem Services and Markets will work in conjunction with the Conservation and Land Management Environmental Services Board on these issues.
"Our Nation's farms, ranches and forests provide goods and services that are vital to society; natural assets we call ecosystem services," said Schafer. "The Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets will enable America's agriculture producers to better compete, trade their services around the world, and make significant contributions to help improve the environment."
These ecosystem services have historically been viewed as free benefits to society, but this will attempt to compensate producers who provide these critical public benefits. Market-based approaches to conservation are proven to be a cost-effective method to achieve environmental goals and sustain working and natural landscapes.
Schafer plans to appoint Sally Collins as director of the new office. Collins has worked at USDA for eight years as Associate Chief of the USDA Forestry Service.