ESMC, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Archer Daniels Midland, and GROWMARK Launch Pilot for Illinois Farmers

October 2, 2020

Falls Church, VA

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and GROWMARK are launching an ESMC pilot project in Illinois to generate quantified, verified, certified greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improved water quality credits from agriculture. The project will stack and sell the carbon and water quality credits to meet corporate reporting requirements and improve agricultural resilience.

The pilot is one of nine that ESMC is launching this year with members to test all market program aspects prior to full market launch in 2022. The pilots will test credit generation and sales and ensure all other program aspects are operational and meet grower (supplier) and buyer needs.

This 10,000-acre pilot project in Central Illinois is working with 10 – 15 corn and soy farmers who are enrolled in ICGA’s Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program which works with farmers to help them understand the costs and benefits of adopting new conservation practices. For the growers, this ESMC pilot project provides the opportunity to understand how their improved soil health practices translate into economic benefits.

Rodney Weinzierl, a 3rd generation farmer and Executive Director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association said, “Farmers want and need markets to be transparent, efficient and have integrity. Having this community of involvement with ESMC and ESMC’s wide membership is what will make this successful.”

“As ICGA started working with farmers on water quality and soil health issues about five years ago, we realized that farmers have unmet needs when it comes to scaling conservation practices. Having a better understanding of the financial risks and benefits for adopting conservation practices, coupled with specialized technical support for scaling practices is key. The collaborative work we are doing with ESMC can help meet those needs for farmers,” said ICGA’s Director of Water Quality Research, Laura F. Gentry. “The idea of stacking ecosystem credits makes ESMC very exciting for farmers.”

For ADM, this pilot offers the opportunity to respond to customer needs by encouraging and providing more support to their growers to implement improved soil health practices. Not only does this pilot provide water and carbon credits, it also helps enhance ADM’s relationships with growers.

Alison Taylor, ADM Chief Sustainability Officer noted, “One of our participation objectives is to learn about and develop approved methodologies to deploy globally. Farmers are presented with many different platforms which offer to pay them for improved soil health and water quality. Any opportunity that ADM can provide to farmers around transparent programs like ESMC is important. As our customers are setting supply chain goals, they look to us as a bridge to help them meet their supply chain goals.”

Debbie Reed, ESMC Executive Director noted that, “Our public-private-partnership allows us to grow and test the market within an agricultural value chain microcosm with our members. We are in essence operating and functioning in a controlled market test prior to 2022 launch. We value the partnership with ADM, IL Corn Growers Association, GROWMARK, and IL corn and soybean producers in stepping up to the challenge and testing the program with us. Together, we will go further and learn more.”

ICGA and PCM will evaluate how the ESMC market-based incentives, combined with the agronomic and production benefits of improved soil health practices, can positively impact farm profitability and sustainability to overcome the cost obstacles of conservation implementation. PCM Specialists will provide farmers training in the ESMC program and the ESMC verification process. GROWMARK will provide on-farm technical assistance and soil testing for farmers participating in the pilot. ESMC is quantifying, monitoring, and verifying outcomes from the project, working with the global certification bodies Gold Standard and SustainCERT to certify the credits and the protocols, and selling the credits to pay farmers for their impacts.

The partners launched the project during a Climate Week NYC event September 25; view the webinar here (password: EBJ?0@jB).