Michelle Perez

Water Initiative Director

Michelle Perez joined American Farmland Trust in 2016 and now serves as the Water Initiative Director. In this role, Michelle is organizing AFT’s significant work (past and present) on water issues into a comprehensive national initiative with links to outcomes quantification, soil health, climate, and ecosystem markets.

Michelle partners with AFT’s regional staff to pursue landscape-scale farm conservation projects that aim to achieve improved in-stream water quality and water quantity outcomes. Michelle also serves on AFT’s Federal Policy team where she helps to improve federal conservation policy and programs.

To advance policy and develop innovative conservation tools, Michelle collaborates with federal, state, and regional agency representatives, academic experts, leading environmental and farm groups, and scientific and economic modeling specialists.

For her first AFT publication, Michelle released Water Quality Targeting Success Stories in 2017 which features analysis of six watershed projects that measured water quality improvements due to farm conservation practices.

Previously, Michelle was a Senior Associate at World Resources Institute where she led projects on farm conservation targeting, quantifying environmental outcomes, nutrient trading, and developing field and watershed-scale nutrient reduction estimation tools. At WRI, Michelle published three policy analyses to help existing farm conservation programs achieve water quality improvements through better targeting of funds. She also analyzed the economic and environmental feasibility of nutrient trading between farmers and waste water utilities to address nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay

Before WRI, Michelle was a Senior Analyst with the Environmental Working Group and also worked for the Alliance to Save Energy on international energy efficiency issues in China, India, Mexico, and the Philippines.

Michelle holds a doctorate in environmental policy from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Her dissertation was a three-state comparative case study of farm nutrient management regulations in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. She has an undergraduate degree in biology from Occidental College. Michelle also serves as Vice-President of the Soil and Water Conservation Society's National Capital Chapter.

Michelle grew up in the Philippines and Nigeria and spent her summers in Greeley, Colorado. She lives in Maryland with her husband and toddler daughter.


(202) 378-1205, mperez@farmland.org