Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
Our Mission: To advance ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems that benefit society.
Executive Director Update
As we continue to deal with the repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture and our professional and personal lives, ESMC is grateful to be able to connect with our members virtually, though we miss the networking of in-person gatherings. Last week’s two-day virtual ESMC/ESMRC member meeting, the theme of which was Meeting the Needs of Buyers and Producers, yielded great discussions and feedback on our program and will enable us to further refine our investments and approaches as we launch additional pilot projects and continue planning future projects. We appreciate the robust member engagement over the two days of sessions, and the feedback on member benefits, market and business plan development, and protocol and certification updates. We delved into some of the finer details of the protocols that have implications for producers and how and to what extent we can engage and reward early adopters and innovators in market programs. The details are important to ensure we meet buyer needs, but in particular to ensure we can enroll producers in a manner that meets their needs and expectations as well. We enjoyed hearing updates from members on their related activities in this space and appreciate the diversity and depth of great member work, much of which complements ESMC’s program and will further help to build ecosystem service markets backed by science.
ESMC’s agricultural supply chain and value chain stakeholder input and strong, collective voice in this space will be necessary to continue to inform market developments that keep current with technological advancements in asset quantification and verification, but also in scalable, cost-effective approaches to mitigate climate change and achieve societal needs and benefits while improving agricultural resilience. Continued storm-related impacts in the Midwest are a reminder that resilience is an absolute necessity. Strong markets won’t overcome natural disasters; improved resilience to natural disasters can help.
ESMC/ESMRC’s work to advance and push the envelope on scalable market-based programming—to scale beneficial, resilient agricultural impacts and reward farmers and ranchers for those impacts—is taking many forms on the ground, in projects, and through RFP’s guided by our technical working groups. Behind the scenes, ESMC staff are engaged in strategic planning in preparation for our 2022 market launch, working hard to ensure all the work we are collaboratively investing in now will be reflected in a seamless end-to-end market. We look forward to continued member feedback over the coming months as we incorporate refinements into our programming based on your input. And we thank all our members for their continued support and guidance.
The ESMC/ESMRC Team
ESMC Announces Inaugural Producer Circle Members
ESMC is pleased to announce 28 farmers and ranchers from across the United States have been selected as the inaugural cohort of Producer Circle members. The Producer Circle is vitally important to provide farmer and rancher input while pilot testing ESMC’s innovative protocols and the technical assistance, verification, and certification requirements in preparation for full market launch in 2022. Read the full announcement here.
To showcase our 28 Producer Circle members, ESMC will include a Producer Circle Spotlight in each monthly newsletter; we are pleased to kick these off with a spotlight on Gary Price, Producer Circle Co-Chair, from 77 Ranch.
Producer Circle Spotlight – Gary Price, 77 Ranch
With a family ranch spanning 2,600 acres in Blooming Grove, TX, Gary Price is no stranger to sustainability and ecosystem services. About 45 years ago, Gary and his wife, Sue, had the opportunity to begin their ranching journey when a family friend transitioned out of the business. They started 77 Ranch and have been piecing together parcels of the Blackland Prairie ever since, along with their son, Gary Lee.
Called the most endangered large ecosystem in North America, the Blackland Prairie is home to some of the last tracts of native, pristine prairie lands on the continent. Much of the current 77 Ranch footprint used to be a cotton field, but Price restored it to native grass. “Part of the original property had good native prairie. It’s been a great teacher,” says Price. “You can see the resilience of the prairie plants which allowed us to shift away from feeding supplemental protein or hay. The native, undisturbed land showed us early on that’s the way we wanted to go. I’m really glad we’ve gone that route. We know more about soil health and plants and how they all work together.” Read the full Spotlight here.
ESMC Request for Proposals
The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) Working Groups are focused on the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of cost-effective, scalable technologies and approaches to support a scalable, cost-effective ecosystem services market. Improved asset quantification components of this work are led by Working Groups 1 and 2 who have been tasked with developing accurate, cost-effective, and scalable quantification of agricultural management system impacts on soil C, net GHG (carbon, methane and nitrous oxide), water quality and water quantity. Working Group 1 (Carbon and GHG Assets) has released the following RFPs:
Working Group 1, Project 3 – N2O Quantification Through Surrogate Measurements
PROJECT SUMMARY: The purpose of this RFP is to find surrogate measurements for N2O to generate credits based on these measurements. The group would also like to quantify the tradeoffs and correlations between ecosystem services – e.g. correlations among GHG fluxes and correlations between GHG fluxes and water quality/quantity measurements. Much as a single GHG flux may be estimated from another measurement, there is a strong potential that improvements in one ecosystem service will tend to improve another. Whether this is generalizable or whether there are risks that market-driven solutions for GHG or water will not have unintended consequences is not fully understood. View the full RFP here.
Working Group 1, Project 4 – Pilot Project Soil Sampling Protocol Evaluation
PROJECT SUMMARY: The purpose of this RFP is to design and implement comparative research studies in the context of ESMC pilot projects – pre-soil sampling stratification across selected ESMC pilot projects, evaluate soil sampling SOPs, associated uncertainties, and sampling costs; compare options for an ESMC Scope 3 Soil Sampling SOP against the full Scope 1 soil sampling SOP for model calibration/validation and uncertainty in asset generation; test sampling intensity for optimal and accurate determination of baseline SOC stocks for prediction of Scope 3 SOC accretion using DNDC. The results of this are to determine a soil sampling SOP that will satisfy asset certification requirements equal to or better than current accepted protocols. View the full RFP here.
Proposals must be submitted as a PDF document via email to Paul Meints, ESMRC Research Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 18, 2020, 5:00 pm ET. Final decisions will be made by October 9, 2020 and all vendors will be notified by October 15, 2020. If you have questions regarding this RFP, please contact Paul Meints directly at email@example.com or 507-508-2852 during regular business hours (CT).
ESMC Receives Funding from the United Soybean Board
ESMC is pleased to have received a second grant from the United Soybean Board (USB) to partially fund ESMC’s 200,000-acre pilot expansion project beyond the Soy and Corn Belt. With USB’s help, ESMC will further develop a verification framework, train and certify verifiers to provide these services, and attain a program-level certification by Gold Standard for ecosystem services assets in each region. ESMC will ensure that the attributes of soy production are accurately reflected in the protocol and each regional adaptation so that producers across the country can benefit from credit generation. The pilot will connect USB and its growers to stakeholders throughout the value chain and allow soy producers to “close the loop” with consumers, as end users incentivize producers to continuously improve environmental performance and achieve improved sustainability outcomes.
Welcome New ESMC Member: United Sorghum Checkoff Program
ESMC is pleased to announce the United Sorghum Checkoff Program as its newest Legacy Partner member. The United Sorghum Checkoff Program and the U.S. Grains Council have worked together to successfully market domestic sorghum internationally for more than a decade. Welcome!
ESMC Welcomes Communications Director Thayer Tomlinson
Thayer Tomlinson joined ESMC this month as the Communications Director to develop and send organizational newsletters, expand the organization’s communications activities, and manage the ESMC website and social media accounts. Thayer has worked in organizational communications for the last 15 years, serving as the Communications Director for the International Biochar Initiative and as the Program Manager for the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG). She holds a master’s in international environmental policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia. She lives in Vermont.
ESMC Member News
General Mills Sets Goals to Elevate Black Managers, Executives
ESMC Founding Circle member, General Mills, announced last week that it will double the number of Black managers throughout the company, making a public commitment after the police killing of George Floyd thrust more attention on racial injustice and inequality. The food company’s plan reflects a larger reckoning in corporate America over the lack of diverse representation in upper management. Additionally, the company promised to increase the percentage of racially and ethnically diverse individuals holding professional positions within the company’s U.S. offices, currently at 19%, to 25%. It said it will diversify its supply base by doubling what it spends with minority-owned vendors. Read the full announcement here.
Corn Farmers Endorse Climate Policies
In a recent article, EDF highlights how ESMC Legacy Partner member National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which represents the interests of 300,000 U.S. corn farmers, recently approved more than a dozen climate policies as part of the policy positions its members vote on twice a year. In doing so, NCGA affirmed that climate change is real, and farmers are part of the solution. Read the full article here.
New Soil Models May Ease Atmospheric CO2, Climate Change
Dr. Johannes Lehmann of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, an ESMC Legacy Partner member, recently published an article in Nature Geoscience with an international, interdisciplinary group of scientists. They propose developing new models that more accurately reflect the carbon-storage processes in soil to effectively draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide. The new soil carbon-persistence models would view these processes through the lens of “functional complexity” – the interplay between time and space in soil carbon’s changing molecular structure. Read the full article here.
Look for ESMC at . . .
2020 Sustainable Agronomy Conference
The American Society of Agronomy will be holding its 2020 Sustainable Agronomy Conference August 18 – 20 as a virtual event. Debbie Reed will be presenting in the August 18 morning session on “Economics of Sustainable Agronomy: Opportunities for Practitioners.” She will be joined by ESMC partners, Ryan Sirolli of Cargill (as a fellow panelist) and moderator Rod Snyder of Field to Market. Registration and additional information is here.
T3 Webinar: 4Rs and Conservation Practices – Opening Carbon Credit Markets
To help meet the challenges of travel and COVID-19, ESMC member, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), is presenting webinars in the lead up to the T3 meeting. On August 20 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm ET, TFI will host the free webinar 4Rs and Conservation Practices: Opening Carbon Credit Markets. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate on a panel that will discuss the development of carbon credit markets to compensate farmers who implement nutrient management and conservation practices that sequester carbon in their fields. Read more here.
Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable
ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed and Project Manager Cassie Aherin will jointly present on ESMC’s program at the 2020 Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable workshop on Grazingland and Beef Ecosystem Services, August 25 and 26, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Workshop participants will share a comparison of 2012 and 2017 data, as well as the first attempt at calculating values for public lands ecosystem services associated with federal grazing allotments.
Enhancing Investment in Soil Health and Carbon Storage: Frontiers for Linking Finance and Carbon Accounting
Held September 10, from 10 am - 1:15 pm ET, this webinar will highlight investment-oriented actions promoting soil health and carbon storage by improving the accounting of soil carbon sequestration. ESMC's Debbie Reed speak at a session on soil carbon accounting frontiers. This event is free of charge and open to the public.
Society of Environmental Journalists Virtual Workshop - Agriculture & Climate
This two-hour virtual workshop on September 30 will take a deep dive into regenerative agriculture as part of the solution set that can help address climate change while providing a broad array of additional benefits to people and the environment. A diverse group of experts, including ESMC’s Debbie Reed, will lead an exploration of the various perspectives on regenerative agriculture, from science to economics to indigenous intelligence. Read more here.
The VERGE 20 event, online from October 26 – 30, includes 15,000 clean economy leaders — from the private and public sectors, utilities, solution providers, investors, and startups — advancing systemic solutions to address the climate crisis through five key markets: carbon removal, the circular economy, clean energy, electrified transportation and sustainable food systems. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will be moderating a session. Read more here.
. . . Online!
Our ESMC team continues its active work in addressing goals and priorities of the ESMC. Please let us know if we can assist with requests for virtual presentations or other questions to be addressed. Stay up-to-date on ESMC happenings at our website and follow us on social media. We are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as @MarketEcosystem, @EcosystemServicesMarketConsortium and Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, respectively.
Other News of Note
Derecho Storm Damaged Most of Iowa's Corn Acres
Star Tribune (August 14) – Last week’s derecho storm potentially affected some 10 million acres of Iowa farmland and millions of bushels of grain storage in the top U.S. corn-growing state, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said. Early estimates show that tens of millions of bushels worth of commercial grain storage — as well as millions of bushels of on-farm storage bins owned by producers — were either affected, destroyed, or severely damaged by the storm, Naig said. Read the full article here.
Green Practices Can Negate Climate Emissions on NY Farms
Cornell Chronicle (August 13) – New York agriculture has the capacity to mitigate its own greenhouse gas emissions, two Cornell researchers say in a state-funded report commissioned by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. The 65-page report, New York Agriculture and Climate Change: Key Opportunities for Mitigation, Resilience, and Adaptation, provides a scientific assessment of opportunities and barriers supporting climate adaptation and mitigation practices on New York’s farms. Read the full article here.
Cover Crop Roots Are an Essential Key to Understanding Ecosystem Services
Science Daily (August 13) – To judge the overall effectiveness of cover crops and choose those offering the most ecosystem services, agricultural scientists must consider the plants' roots as well as above-ground biomass, according to Penn State researchers who tested the characteristics of cover crop roots in three monocultures and one mixture. In a new study recently published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, researchers evaluated cover crop treatments including monocultures of triticale, canola, and crimson clover as well as a five-species mixture dominated by those three species. Read the full article here.
Global Warming Could Unlock Carbon from Tropical Soil
New York Times (August 12) – Warming soils in the tropics could cause microbes to release carbon dioxide from storage. One scientist called the finding “another example of why we need to worry more.” Read the full article here.
'Soil Is The Source' Initiative Will Support New Technology Development
Successful Farming (August 12) – Much has been made of the importance of healthy soils – and healthy microbial populations within soils - to farmers’ bottom lines. That’s why AgriThority has launched the Soil is the Source initiative, to develop new technologies from around the world to help farmers improve soil health and productivity for greater yield and profit. Read the full article here.
Nations Spend $600 Billion-Plus Annually on Ag Subsidies. Here's How that Money Could Feed a More Sustainable Future
GreenBiz (August 12) – To both feed the world and solve climate change, the world needs to produce 50 percent more food in 2050 compared to 2010 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds. While government funding has an important role to play, a new World Bank report written by WRI's Tim Searchinger with seven co-authors found that agricultural subsidies are doing little to achieve these goals but have great potential for reform. Read the full article here.
A Prophet of Soil Gets His Moment of Fame
NPR (August 11) – More than 40 years ago, in Nigeria, a young scientist named Rattan Lal encountered an idea that changed his life — and led, eventually, to global recognition and a worldwide movement to protect the planet's soil. Lal was fresh out of graduate school, recruited to join the newly established International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and given an assignment that, in hindsight, seems ridiculous in its ambition. "I was 25 years old, in charge of a lab, given the mandate of improving quality and quantity of food production in the tropics!" Lal says. He struggled. The problem was the soil. Because of climate and geological history, it was more fragile than what he'd seen in India, where he grew up, or Ohio, where he'd received his Ph.D. Read the full article here.
House Committee Embraces Agriculture as a Solution to Climate Challenges
The Hill (August 5) – America's farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners took note of and appreciated the Climate Crisis Action Plan released earlier this month by the majority staff of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC). While there are elements that warrant further discussion, on balance many farmers — including the opinion writer Fred Yoder — feel a breath of fresh air. Read the full commentary here.
Betting the Farm
Politico (August 4) – Something unusual happened in Washington this summer: Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle unveiled a serious climate bill in the middle of a pandemic. The decidedly wonkish legislation, which aims to make it easier to pay farmers to capture carbon, didn’t make much of a splash as coronavirus continues to suck up all the oxygen inside the Beltway, and rightfully so. But the fact that it was unveiled at all is the latest sign of growing momentum behind the idea that agriculture can help battle climate change. Read the full article here.