LancasterOnline: Lancaster Farmland Provides $676M In Annual Environmental Benefits
LancasterOnline.com’s Ad Crable reported Friday Lancaster County’s farmland provides environmental benefits worth more than $676 million annually and that’s not counting agricultural products they produce, according to a new study commissioned by the Lancaster County Agricultural Council.
The study, “Beyond Food: The Environmental Benefits of Agriculture In Lancaster County,” identifies benefits as including providing water, pollination, recreation, tourism and flood protection, soil and trees that absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
“Any farmer will tell you fertile soil, clean water and a stable climate is as crucial to the business as a tractor. These natural services can be viewed as capital assets-- just like the land or the tractor.
“Lancaster County’s natural capital provides a robust flow of essential economic goods and service benefits, including food, water, clean air, natural beauty, climatic stability, storm and flood protection and recreation.”
The study values Lancaster County’s natural capital asset value would be roughly $17.5 billion.
“Because natural capital assets are renewable, self-sustaining and long-lived, there is good reason not to discount the value of future ecosystem services like water and food provisioning or flood protection.
“Agricultural lands make up over 65 percent of Lancaster County’s ecosystem and form a key part of the region’s economic foundation.”
Among the recommendations in the study are--
-- Invest in the agricultural sector, farmland preservation and natural resource conservation;
-- Create incentive structures to provide landowners and farmers direct financial benefits for best stewardship practices; and
-- Employ ecosystem valuation to calculate the return on investment and recognize ecosystem services provide an objective means for quantifying trade-offs in development decisions.
The study was completed by Earth Economics.
A copy of the study is available online.
(Photo: LancasterOnline.com, Richard Hertzler, staff photographer)
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[Posted Dec. 17, 2016]
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