USDA Tries Pricing and Trading Environmental Benefits

In a new column, Reason Foundation’s Skaidra Smith-Heisters says that bringing ecosystem services out of the political realm and into the market would be welcome news. Smith-Heisters writes:

The announcement that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is creating a new Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets was largely overlooked in December amidst the recession and presidential transition. The importance of the announcement was not lost, however, on editors at The Katoomba Group, whose Ecosystem Marketplace website is the largest clearinghouse of information on markets and payment schemes for ecosystem services. There, the creation of the Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets was welcomed as “part of a massive realignment of the management of natural resources.” USDA is already far too big and has not served taxpayers well. The agency specializes in doling out entitlements, administering corporate welfare, increasing the cost of food for consumers, and generally ensuring that the nation’s agricultural sector operates in a bubble untouched by the realities of the market. However, the new ecosystem and markets program offers a little bit of hope for an agency that is otherwise hostile to free markets.

Read the whole column here.