The WRI Policy Notes are a series designed to specifically address topical policy issues relating to the environment. These notes are based on WRI research and expertise on the various topics.

Executive Summary

Environmental Markets

No. 1: Paying for Environmental Performance: Investing in Farmers and the Environment (Suzie Greenhalgh, Mindy Selman and Jenny Guiling). This Policy Note explores the allocation of funding in Farm Bill conservation programs, and offers recommendations on how to more efficiently and effectively allocate conservation funding. We identify a number of areas where the allocation of public monies for conservation could be improved.

No. 2: Conservation Best Management Practices, Cost-Share, and Water Quality Trading Programs(Suzie Greenhalgh, Mindy Selman and Michael Taylor). This Policy Note outlines economic and "fairness" reasons why supporting the sale of the cost-share portion of agricultural nutrient and sediment reductions is not the most appropriate policy for the USDA and other government agencies to adopt.

No. 3: Paying for Environmental Performance: Using Reverse Auctions to Allocate Funding for Conservation(Suzie Greenhalgh, Jenny Guiling, Mindy Selman and Jonathan St. John). This Policy Note explains how reverse auctions can be used to allocate funding in agricultural conservation programs or environmental trading programs with a constrained or limited budget. Reverse auctions ensure cost-effective environmental improvements are purchased by agricultural conservation programs or environmental trading programs.

No. 4: Paying for Environmental Performance: Estimating Environmental Outcomes of Agricultural Best Management Practices (Jenny Guiling and Jonathan St. John). This Policy Note explains how tools to estimate the environmental performance of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) can be used in current conservation programs. The Note also identifies the need for standardized estimation protocols and site-specific research on the environmental outcomes of BMPs.


No. 1: Beyond the RFS: The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Increased Grain Ethanol Production in the U.S.(Liz Marshall and Suzie Greenhalgh). This Policy Note explores the economic and environmental implications of expanding corn ethanol production to levels that meet, and then exceed, the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate.

No. 2: Thirst for Corn: What 2007 Plantings Could Mean for the Environment (Liz Marshall). This study explores the potential environmental impacts of the recent surge in corn production, and suggests some policy measures to help make agriculture in general more robust to increased demands for energy production.

No. 3: Finding Balance: Agricultural Residues, Ethanol, and the Environment (Liz Marshall, Zachary Sugg). This analysis explores the implications of corn stover harvest for soil carbon loss, nutrient (nitrogen) pollution, and erosion, as well as the potential to mitigate those impacts using available agricultural best management practices (BMPs) such as reduced tillage intensity and integration of winter cover crops (WCC) into production rotations.

No. 4: Corn Stover For Ethanol Production: Potential and Pitfalls(Liz Marshall, Zachary Sugg). This study uses a national agro-environmental production model to evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of introducing a market for corn stover to support a stover-based ethanol industry.


No. 1:Agriculture and Climate Change: The Policy Context(Evan Branosky). This Policy Note analyzes the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, discusses sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector, and explains the possible roles for agriculture in proposed climate change legislation.

No. 2: Agriculture and Climate Change: Greenhouse Mitigation Opportunities and the 2007 Farm Bill(Evan Branosky and Suzie Greenhalgh). This Farm Bill Policy Note is the second in a series of two Notes that look at opportunities and reasons for the U.S. agricultural industry to participate in climate policy discussions. This Note describes the climate mitigation opportunities for agriculture, highlights some of the trade-offs with other environmental issues and lists some options for addressing climate change within the Conservation Title of the 2007 Farm Bill.


No. 1: Agricultural Subsidies, Poverty and the Environment: Supporting a Domestic Reform Agenda in Developing Countries(Antonio La Vina, Lindsey Fransen, Paul Faeth and Yuko Kurauchi). This Policy Note addresses the need for developing countries to implement a domestic reform agenda to accompany agricultural subsidy reforms. It also describes the policies needed in order for such reforms to translate into real benefits for poor farmers and for the environment in developing countries.