ESMC Member Meeting Update
As a reminder, ESMC is holding our May 11-12 member meeting virtually due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please continue to hold the dates on your calendar. Meeting registration information and a draft agenda will be sent to members next week.
ESMC Pilot Projects Underway General Mills and ESMRC Research Investments Kick Off
Soil sampling for the ESMC-General Mills Pilot Project is now underway on over 90 fields in Kansas. A crew from Applied Ecological Services arrived at the pilot fields and are in the process of a month-long soil sampling effort during which they are collecting over 100 soil cores each day. The project is testing new soil carbon sampling technologies alongside the standard soil carbon sampling methodology to evaluate different soil carbon sampling approaches. The research design for the effort is being implemented as a part of the collaboration between General Mills’ Regenerative Agriculture Program and ESMC’s research program.
“We are leveraging innovative work across multiple programs and have also brought together researchers from Yale, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Colorado State University, and the Soil Health Institute to maximize our learnings by layering several research experiments on these pilot sites. We believe this will advance our understanding of how to quantify changes in soil carbon in a way that is both robust and feasible,” says Dr. Steve Rosenzweig, Senior Soil Scientist at General Mills, who is leading the project.
The soil carbon sampling will establish baseline measurements for farmers to generate credits through ESMC’s ecosystem services market as they implement regenerative agricultural systems that improve soil health and water quality. The research results will help ESMC refine and streamline soil carbon measurement methods, improve efficiencies and deliver more of the financial benefits back to farmer participants.
The Fertilizer Institute Pilot Project Underway with Recruitment of 4R Advocates
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) is also pilot testing ESMC’s market approach with farmers enrolled in their 4R Advocate program. This pilot is studying the connection between nutrient stewardship and profitability. TFI’s 4R Advocate program farmers are collecting and sharing farm management data through the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program to allow ESMC to generate credits for carbon, GHG, water quality and water quantity. TFI is recruiting farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota to participate.
ESMC Pilot Project Launched with Conservation Technology Innovation Center (CTIC)
CTIC will follow ESMC protocols and use CTIC’s N-Gage and the Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT) to quantify and verify phosphorus and water quality impacts in the Western Lake Erie basin. The pilot will allow a full test of ESMC’s pay-for-performance program in the Maumee and Sandusky River Basins. CTIC received $479,782 from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to support this two-year project. ESMC member the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is also a collaborator in this pilot project.
ESMC Protocol v. 8.2 Unveiled
ESMC released to its members the latest version of its innovative integrated multi-media protocol. Protocol v.8.2 was unveiled and introduced to ESMC members via webinar on April 8. The protocol covers a significant portion of the US, geographically, and all major agricultural production systems, and is the basis for all 2020 ESMC pilot project work. The ESMC v.8.2 Protocol Webinar recording is available to all members on the ESMC BaseCamp member tile.
ESMC Request for Proposals (RFP) Under Review
A total of 11 proposals were submitted in response to ESMC’s recent RFP announcementsfor contractors to conduct technology assessment and water quality work. Seven (7) proposals were received to carry out Advanced Quantification Technology Assessmentof tools related to carbon and GHG. Four (4) proposals were received to address Evaluation, improvement and scaling of water quality quantification approaches for water asset generation in ESMC’s Integrated Protocol related to water assets.
New Funding Award for ESMC
ESMC is pleased to announce receipt of a new grant award of $550,000 from the Walton Family Foundation to help in continuing the work of the ESMC. The funds will support operations, management and member engagement efforts; work on the 2020 Midwest corn/soy pilots; and the establishment of the ESMC Producer’s Circle to further engage farmers and ranchers in the program development. ESMC thanks the Walton Family Foundation for continuing to be a major supporter of ESMC, having provided one of the first grants to seed the initiative. We extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Walton Family Foundation for their continued support and trust in ESMC and our work.
Extended Public Comment Period on Technical Guidelines for GHG Emissions and Carbon Sequestration
To accommodate the logistical challenges posed by the nationwide shift to remote work, the USDA Office of Energy and Environmental Policy is extending the public comment period through May 15, 2020 on its Notice of Request for Public Comment on Updates to Technical Guidelines for Quantifying Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Carbon Sequestration at the Entity-Scale for Agriculture and Forestry, published in the Federal Register under docket number USDA-2020-0002. Comments should be submitted here. ESMC will be submitting comments and encourages interested members to consider doing so as well.
Newest ESMC Team Member Brandy McFadden
ESMC is pleased to introduce Brandy McFadden who has joined the ESMC team in a full-time capacity as the Administrative Lead. Brandy will continue to handle meeting scheduling and coordination for ESMC and other administrative support including member database management.
Welcome New ESMC Members
ESMC is thrilled to announce that we have surpassed 50 members as of the end of the first quarter of 2020! Welcome to new ESMC Legacy Partner members Cornell University, Illinois Corn Growers Association and Sustainable Northwest.
ESMC Member News
Sand County Foundation Helps Negotiate Agreement in Iowa for Dubuque Partnership with Farmers
Congratulations to ESMC Legacy Partner member, the Sand County Foundation, for their role in facilitating an agreement between the City of Dubuque and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources leading to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved last week. The MOU allows the city to work with upstream farmers on improving water quality, thus limiting the need for millions of dollars in municipal utility improvements. Dubuque faces investments of close to $11 million needed to meet new state water quality goals but believes that through this agreement they can achieve those goals and spend less by partnering with farmers to invest in cover crops, wetlands and other conservation practices. Read more here about this innovative agreement that is viewed as a blueprint for other cities on working with farmers towards meeting water quality goals.
Cargill and Walton Family Foundation Support Iowa Soybean Association in Paying Farmers for Environmental Improvements
The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, a partnership of the Iowa Soybean Association and Quantified Ventures, will be paying farmers in Iowa $30 to $45 per acre for capturing carbon in their field soils and cutting fertilizer runoff starting with this year’s crop season. The Fund is supported by grants from ESMC Founding Circle member, Cargill Inc., and the Walton Family Foundation, and the Iowa Soybean Association participates in one of the ESMRC Working Groups. More information is available on the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund website here.
Look for ESMC at . . .
. . . 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
Can Regenerative Agriculture Deliver on Its Promise?
GreenBiz (April 10) – The potential of regenerative ag is so clear that it’s become that rarest of things: A topic on which Democrats and Republicans can agree to work together on. It also may become an important component of carbon offset markets; startups and industry collaborations are already competing to help farmers get paid for sequestering carbon in soil. Continue reading the article here.
On Climate and Conservation, A ‘Generational Change in Attitude’
High Plains Journal (April 10) – Many farmers say they are the “original environmentalists” and new Agri-Pulse polling data underscores that message. According to the survey of 600 farmers and ranchers nationwide, large majorities of farmers already have undertaken many practices that conserve carbon in the soil, reduce inputs or curb runoff of pollutants that can foul streams and lakes. Continue reading the full article here.
Soil Carbon Impacts Plant Protein Content
Hay and Forage Grower (April 7) – There’s a renewed interest in understanding nitrogen mineralization with the convergence of rising nitrogen fertilizer costs, water quality cleanup efforts, and interest in soil health. This is where understanding how the carbon in soil connects to the protein in pasture grasses. Continue reading the full article here.
Almond Orchard Recycling a Climate-Smart Strategy
Science Daily (April 1) – Recycling trees onsite can sequester carbon, save water and increase crop yields, making it a climate-smart practice for California’s irrigated almond orchards, finds a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. “To me what was really impressive was the water piece,” said corresponding author Amélie Gaudin, an associate professor of agroecology in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “Water is central to how we think about agriculture in California. This is a clear example of capitalizing on soil health. Here we see some real benefits for water conservation and for growers.” Continue reading the full article here.