Incorporating an ecosystem services approach to assess sustainable agriculture goals in value chains
The values of ecosystem services are currently not adequately reflected in decisions throughout the agriculture value chain. Several businesses have set ambitious sustainability goals relating to ecosystem services and are beginning to engage with their suppliers, farmers, and local governments to identify ways to improve the sustainability outcomes in their value chain. Likewise governments are setting targets for improving environmental goals impacted by agriculture. Best management practices can improve the performance of agricultural production. However, decision-makers currently lack information on the most cost-effective ways to meet these goals in terms of the full benefits of BMPs and where they should be targeted at a landscape scale. Here we develop and utilize an innovative approach/tool? that enables public and private value chain actors to evaluate the potential range of ecosystem service benefits and costs of achieving conservation targets for a landscape. Specifically, we evaluate how best to target BMPs to meet conservation goals while minimizing the impacts to agriculture production for pilot watersheds in Iowa, U.S.A.
We discuss how this approach can be utilized to inform sustainable agriculture goals and for implementing conservation efforts. We illustrate significant market costs in meeting non-market valued ecosystem services goals. For example hitting state targets for water quality reductions will have a significant impact on agriculture returns for the studied watersheds. We do show potential pathways for obtaining significant ecosystem service benefit at lower costs when both benefits and costs are considered together than traditional conservation management approaches.