Executive Director Update
Dear ESMC Members, Stakeholders and Supporters,

As we wrap up 2020, we want to acknowledge what a tumultuous and unprecedented time we have all endured over the past year. The global COVID pandemic has upended many of us and changed our lives in many ways, some in ways that will remain with us and our children forever. Agriculture and food systems have been tested in ways we could not have imagined prior to the pandemic. We have witnessed the tenacity and the grit of workers in the global agricultural and food industries, and the limitations in support that could be offered, as well as the outpouring of support that was offered as a result. Trials bring out the best and the worst of us and our systems and response capacities.

COVID, climate change, and water, natural resource, and economic concerns all will compete for our time and attention in 2021 and beyond; we will continue to face these challenges and more in the new year. Working together we will better overcome these challenges. This week, an ESMC Board member pointed out the ability of public-private partnerships in delivering two vaccines for COVID in record time and reminded me that public-private partnerships like ESMC/ESMRC can do the same. It is this spirit and grit and hope and partnership that will make us successful in responding to the challenges in the coming year and delivering ecosystem services impacts at scale. We can make a difference.

We hope that everyone everywhere receives support and comfort as we end this year and celebrate the start of 2021; we look forward to renewed engagement, commitments, and new successes in the new year.

From all of us at Team ESMC

ESMC Welcomes a New Research Manager, Amanda Raster
We are pleased to welcome Amanda Raster as ESMRC’s Research Manager. Amanda will lead the ESMRC Working Group and Strike Team activities, bringing with her fifteen years of experience in food systems and multi-stakeholder sustainable agriculture initiatives. She previously served as the Science Director at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action, where she led a comprehensive life cycle assessment harmonization project for major U.S. ag commodities and engaged farmers, ranchers, and supply chain partners around the science of sustainable food systems. Amanda grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Political Science and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Welcome Amanda!

Employment Opportunities at ESMC/ESMRC
ESMC and ESMRC, the research arm of ESMC, have several new positions open immediately for individuals looking to join the ESMC/ESMRC team. All positions are posted on ESMC’s website; interested applicants should send a cover letter, along with salary requirements, available start dates, and a resume to Please include your name in the title of all files (ex. Jane Doe cover letter). All positions will remain posted until filled.

Senior Software Engineer
ESMRC seeks an experienced, highly skilled, and motivated Senior Software Engineer (FTE contractor) with experience in leading the development of successful technology tools and/or platforms to join a small and dynamic, fast-paced team environment. The engineer will be responsible for the development, oversight, and coordination of all technical and product aspects of building, launching, and supporting the Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) platform through collaboration with the ESMC team, ESMC members, ESMRC Working Group participants, and other ESMC contractors. The engineer will drive day-to-day development as well as long-term product strategy and vision.

Chief Technology Officer
ESMRC seeks a highly skilled, motivated, and innovative Chief Technology Officer (CTO) (FTE contractor) with experience in leading the development of successful technology tools and/or platforms to join a small and dynamic, fast-paced team environment. The CTO will be responsible for the development, oversight and coordination of all technical and product aspects of building, launching, and supporting the MRV platform through collaboration with the ESMC team, ESMC members, ESMRC Working Group participants, and other ESMC/ESMRC contractors. The CTO will drive day-to-day development as well as long-term product strategy and vision.

ESMRC Postdoctoral Researcher/Research Scientist
ESMRC seeks a dedicated ESMRC Postdoctoral Researcher with experience in the agricultural field related to water quality and quantity issues. The Postdoctoral Researcher will be responsible for providing additional research and technical expertise to the Working Groups, R&D projects, and pilots/field demonstrations. The Postdoctoral Researcher will focus on a topic that relates directly to the impacts of soil health and other conservation practices on ecosystem services outcomes within agricultural systems: water quality and water quantity quantification and modeling.

ESMC Policy Director
ESMC seeks to recruit and hire a talented Policy Director as part of our growing and dynamic team to develop and implement a strategic policy platform for ESMC. The policy platform will support a flourishing, viable, voluntary, and private market for ecosystem services that pays farmers and ranchers for their impacts. As part of this work, the Policy Director will identify and prioritize national and state rules and regulations that can support or hinder the development of robust ecosystem markets for the agricultural sector, one component of which includes the advancement of soil health.

ESMC in the News
How Carbon-Smart Farming Is Catalyzing the Big Bucks Needed to Transform the Way America Eats
GreenBiz (December 21)
Many scientists and other experts agree that regenerative practices — growing diverse crops rather than monocultures; planting cover crops (such as the alfalfa and grasses) on resting fields instead of leaving them bare; minimizing mechanical tillage of the soil; and incorporating livestock into the crop rotation — lead to environmental and health benefits. Still, it’s regenerative agriculture’s potential as a carbon sink that’s driving millions of corporate and investor dollars into soil-climate initiatives, large and modest. “These major corporations are putting a lot of money into this, and if we can work with them … we can scale impact,” said ESMC’s Executive Director Debbie Reed, who believes having standardized, transparent protocols will help hold companies accountable. “If we don’t work with these companies, and they do it themselves, then we have a patchwork, and it’s really hard to tell [who’s actually successful and who’s not].” Read the full article here.
ESMC Member News
The Way We Farm Reflects Our Understanding of the Ecosystem
Dr. Steve Rosenzweig, Soil Scientist at ESMC Founding Circle Member General Mills, writes in The Guardian that throughout the history of industrialized agriculture, farmers and researchers mainly considered the physical and chemical components of soil. Soil was and largely still is appreciated merely as a vessel for seeds and fertilizers, an inert medium for growing plants. This limited conception of soil has led to its neglect. In this opinion piece, he highlights the opportunities available to improve soil health through regenerative agricultural practices. Read the full article here.

Regenerative – The Word Defining Global Food and Ag in 2021
Triple Pundit (December 11)
Regenerative could become the key word that sums up 2021 if the new COVID-19 vaccines are effective and their distribution can be scaled worldwide. But in any event, recent trends in the global food sector suggest regenerative agriculture will become more mainstream in 2021 as both consumers and companies realize we’ve got to find a way to tackle global emissions in the coming decade. The article highlights the work of ESMC Founding Circle Members General Mills and Danone; read in full here.

Rabobank Recognizes General Mills, Pepsico for Leadership
Food Business News (December 4)
ESMC Founding Circle Member General Mills, Inc., along with PepsiCo, Inc. and Imperfect Foods were recognized by Rabobank for their leadership in industry stewardship, sustainability, and innovation. The three companies were announced as recipients of the annual Rabobank North America Leadership Awards during the Food & Agribusiness Summit, which was held virtually earlier this month. The awards celebrate both large-scale food & agribusiness corporations and fast-growing emerging companies that are setting examples of industry stewardship, sustainability, and innovation across the region. Read the full article here.

Focusing on Regenerative Agriculture and Moving to Renewable Electricity, Nestlé Redoubles Efforts to Combat Climate Change
Nestlé (December 3)
As a signatory of the UN Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge, ESMC Founding Circle Member Nestlé is one of the first companies to share its detailed, time-bound plan for Net Zero and to do so ahead of schedule. The company is taking measures to halve its emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050 – even as the company grows. Actions focus on supporting farmers and suppliers to advance regenerative agriculture, planting hundreds of millions of trees within the next 10 years and completing the company’s transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025. Additionally, Nestlé is continuously increasing the number of ‘carbon neutral’ brands. Read the announcement in full here.

The Nature Conservancy Is Hiring a Director, Climate Investment Origination
ESMC Founding Circle Member The Nature Conservancy is hiring a Director, Climate Investment Origination, to lead the organization’s efforts to scope and originate investments in Natural Climate Solutions, which generate carbon sequestration through ecosystem management, protection and restoration. They will be a member of NatureVest’s Origination Team, reporting to the Deputy Managing Director of Investment Origination and working closely with regional and global strategy staff to identify, structure and close NCS investment opportunities globally. Read the full announcement here.

How to Measure the Profitability of Conservation Agriculture
Environmental Defense Fund (December 14)
Policy and business leaders across the U.S. agricultural sector are laying out ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving water quality, and building soil health, presenting a growing need to understand the financial value of on-farm conservation practices. To close this information gap, Environmental Defense Fund published A Practitioner’s Guide to Conducting Budget Analyses for Conservation Agriculture, developed in partnership with ESMC Funder Natural Resources Conservation Service, ESMC Legacy Partner Members Soil Health Partnership, American Farmland Trust, and Field to Market, as well as K·Coe Isom, Precision Conservation Management, and Datu Research. Read the full announcement here.

Combatting Climate Change on US Cropland
American Farmland Trust
A new report by ESMC Legacy Partner Member American Farmland Trust focuses on the significant potential of no-till and cover crop practices to increase soil carbon sequestration and reduce nitrous oxide emissions for a net reduction in GHG emissions. This report summarizes the current state of the science surrounding these practices and their impact on soil organic carbon and GHG emissions, including important limitations of our current understanding. Additionally, the authors outline an achievable path toward harnessing the sequestration potential of U.S. soils. Download the full report here.

Unique Process ‘Cleans’ Crop Water Runoff When Using Dairy Manure as Fertilizer
AgriLife Today (November 30)
Dairy manure is a natural crop fertilizer, and ESMC Technical Contractor Texas A&M AgriLife scientists believe they have discovered a way to make sure that the valuable resource stays on crops where it is applied as a fertilizer, and out of waterways, where it is a potential pollutant. Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Tarleton State University scientists are joining forces to develop and demonstrate a biochar-assisted phytoremediation system for enhancing water quality during dairy manure application in some crop production areas. Read the full article here.

Other News of Note
Biden Vows to Pay Farmers to Plant Cover Crops and Put Land in Conservation
Successful Farming (December 14)
The government will help farmers mitigate climate change by paying them to “put their land in conservation” and plant cover crops, said President-elect Biden, providing some details on his campaign call to offset GHG emissions from agriculture. The sector accounts for roughly 10% of emissions nationwide. Read the full article here.

Steps to Cool the Climate Will Improve Water Quality, Too
The Hill (December 9)
While much of Washington remains mired in partisan gridlock, there is new cooperation in two areas critical to managing climate change: reducing carbon emissions from agriculture and shifting to electric vehicles. This is obviously good news for the climate, and it will help protect the quality of rivers, streams, and coastal waters across the United States. It turns out that what’s good for the climate pays dividends in clean water. Read the full article here.

Ecosystem Impacts and Productive Capacity of a Multi-Species Pastured Livestock System
Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (December 4)
Regenerative agriculture principles suggest that modern livestock systems can be redesigned to better capitalize on animals’ ecological niche as biological up cyclers and may be necessary to fully regenerate some landscapes. One example is a multispecies pasture rotation (MSPR) system, which symbiotically stacks multiple animal production enterprises (i.e., chickens, cattle, sheep, and pigs) on one landscape. The authors conducted a whole-farm life cycle assessment of an MSPR in the southeastern United States that was originally converted from degraded cropland and compared the production outputs, GHG emissions, land footprints, and soil health outcomes to a conventional, commodity production system of each respective species. Read the full journal article here.

Release: A Progress Report on the California Healthy Soils Program
California Climate and Action Network (December 1)
The California Climate and Action Network recently released a progress report on the first three years of California’s Healthy Soils Program. Since its launch, the program has invested nearly $42 million in 640 projects on farms and ranches, including 67 demonstration projects. Farmers’ interest in the program has grown significantly, as evidenced by the six-fold increase in farmer demand for funding since the program began. Despite the fact that the most recent application period opened amidst the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and massive disruption in the agricultural sector, California farmers submitted a record-breaking 614 applications between late February and early May 2020. Read the full article here.

New Book from SWCS Celebrates Past Accomplishments and Offers Insight into the Future of Conservation
A new publication from the Soil and Water Conservation Society celebrates progress of the past and explores the future of conservation at a critical time when natural resources are threatened by the imminent impact of a changing climate. In the collection, Soil and Water Conservation: A Celebration of 75 Years, expert authors describe key developments and offer potential future solutions. Read the article and download a PDF of the book here.

The State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity – Status, Challenges and Potentialities
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
The 14th Conference of the Parties invited FAO, in collaboration with other organizations, to prepare a report on the state of knowledge on soil biodiversity covering its actual status and defies. As a result, the State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity – Status, Challenges and Potentialities was officially launched during the World Soil Day global ceremony on 4 December. Over 300 scientists from around the world contributed to the preparation of the report, highlighting the threats and the nature-based solutions that soil biodiversity can provide to current global challenges. Read the full article here.