Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/4/2008
Publication Date: 3/4/2008
Citation: Cross, C., Mckinney, S., Lal, H., Cover, H., Delgado, J.A., Shaffer, M. 2008. Nitrogen Trading Tool (NTT). Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 63: 44A-45A. Interpretive Summary: The development team has worked closely with the Agriculture Research Service Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit (ARS-SPNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as states, Land grant universities, environmental brokers, and NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) recipients. Water quality markets are emerging across the country along with other ecosystem services. Although NTT is currently being implemented only for nitrogen, the generic design structure lends itself for adaptation to other pollutants such as phosphorus or sediment. Quantifying the loss mechanisms of nutrients like nitrogen is difficult and we need new tools such as the NTT that can integrate the use of models such as NLEAP to assess the effects of best management practices on potential reduction of nitrogen losses to the environment. The NTT couples the scientifically rigorous research model NLEAP with a user-friendly front end interface to allow the producer to easily calculate their nitrogen credits. These credits may be bought or sold in emerging water quality markets across the country. The NTT is a concrete example of the NRCS Strategic Plan’s overarching strategy to employ “Market-Based Approaches” to agriculture. Additionally, the development has provided a focal point to bring together the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as partners in water quality trading. Utilizing the NTT in water quality trading creates the potential to infuse new dollars into conservation. Further, the new prototype NTT places NRCS in the forefront of conservation by invoking innovative solutions to achieve cleaner rivers and streams through market instruments, and provides NRCS the opportunity to move into a leadership role in the facilitation of water quality trading.
Technical Abstract: The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently developed a prototype web-based nitrogen trading tool to facilitate water quality credit trading. The development team has worked closely with the Agriculture Research Service Soil Plant Nutrient Research Unit (ARS-SPNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as states, Land grant universities, environmental brokers, and NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) recipients. The result is an easy-to-use application that uses a nitrogen model that is well represented in the literature. Additionally, the regulators that oversee and certify point to non-point water quality trades have helped to guide the content of the NTT output reports. Thus EPA knows how the nitrogen credits were calculated and is cognizant of the conservation measures that generated the credits. There is no alternative tool with this level of rigor that allows a producer to calculate their nitrogen credits as a function of putting in place conservation measures. Environmental aggregators, brokers, and water quality traders have all responded positively to the NTT. Tools that are in use today are crude and often viewed as preliminary until an EPA- recognized tool like NTT comes along. The NTT has been developed in close coordination with NRCS Information Technology Services (ITS). In addition to the fully functional prototype, NRCS has developed a map-driven geographical user interface (GUI) that fully integrates NTT with the NRCS Web Soil Survey (WSS). This application follows the latest information technology development standards in the agency and is postured to fully integrate with the NRCS Web Soil Survey (WSS), the national database for all soil resources.