December 2022 ESMC Newsletter
2022 In Review: A Year of Milestones for ESMC/ESMRC
2022 was a year marked by global ups and downs, but at ESMC it was a year of accomplishing significant milestones that we set out to achieve in our 2018 business plan! Some highlights from our year include:
- Launching Eco-Harvest, our Market Program.
- Launching a multi-year roadmap with General Mills to achieve their scope 3 needs and scale Eco-Harvest.
- Achieving ESMC Eco-Harvest program accreditation and project verification for soil carbon removals and GHG reductions by SustainCERT’s Value Change Initiative – the first to achieve both in the US.
- Partnering on seven winning USDA Climate Smart Commodity Grants.
- Launching new and supporting existing Eco-Harvest projects – we have 19 currently running.
- Digitized our monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) platform.
More details on each of these milestones is included below.
Launching Eco-Harvest: We successfully launched our market program Eco-Harvest in May 2022, which was the culmination of many years’ collective work coming to fruition. This launch signified the readiness of Eco-Harvest – an end-to-end digitized and advanced technology program and platform to generate high quality, third-party verified credits for soil carbon removals, avoided and reduced greenhouse gases, and water impacts from US farms. This launch would not have happened without the generous support of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), additional funders, our members, our technology partners, our staff, and the many producers whose engagement, input, and feedback led to launch. Thank you to our many members, collaborators, stakeholders, funders and supporters for your generous and continued support. One of my favorite quotes from our launch event was from Dr. LaKisha Odom, the Scientific Program Director at FFAR who noted: “ESMC is a poster child for how collaborative funding and research catalyzes innovation. This consortium is an amazing opportunity to support soil health research, incentivize adoption of soil health practices and provide a science-based methodology to measure the impact of these practices.”Launching a multi-year roadmap with General Mills to scale Eco-Harvest. The roadmap focuses on priority regions in the U.S. and Canada where General Mills sources its key ingredients, like wheat, oat, corn, and dairy. The initial $3 million investment from General Mills includes an ESMC grant to support the launch and development of Eco-Harvest and funds to scale regional programs.Achieving ESMC Eco-Harvest program accreditation and project verification. The Eco-Harvest market program was the first to reach pilot certification under the Value Change Initiative in the US. Eco-Harvest achieved project design certification, which means it aligns with the Value Change Initiative Guidance. A subset of enrolled Eco-Harvest producers was also verified to show the reported soil carbon removals and GHG reductions are materially correct, making ESMC’s program the first Value Chain Intervention to reach this milestone of combined validation and verification in the US. Partnering on seven winning USDA Climate Smart Commodity Grants; five were announced in September and two additional awards were announced this week. We have 19 Eco-Harvest market and pilot projects underway across covering more than 100,000 acres. This year, we’ve seen key program expansion into California with almond crops, the southern US with cotton crops, sorghum in Kansas, organic production systems, and dairy systems in the Chesapeake Bay region to name just a few of our new projects. Digitizing and updating the Eco-Harvest MRV to include multiple enhancements reflecting the needs and feedback of our project partners, documented in our release notes. On behalf of the entire ESMC team, I thank all our members, collaborators, stakeholders, funders, advisors, and supporters for your significant contributions and efforts in 2022. We are grateful for your continued participation, collaboration, and support. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and looking forward to another year of milestones in 2023.
ESMC, US Cotton Trust Protocol, Manulife Investment Management, and Forum for the Future Launch Project for Southern Cotton Farmers to Participate in Eco-Harvest
ESMC, US Cotton Trust Protocol, Manulife Investment Management, and Forum for the Future announce the launch of an Eco-Harvest pilot project in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. This project will work with cotton farmers to generate high quality carbon and greenhouse gas credits on over 2,300 acres. Cotton producers targeted for enrollment include those implementing conservation practices such as nutrient management, reduced tillage, and cover crops. Once producers are enrolled in ESMC’s Eco-Harvest program, ESMC quantifies credits and arranges third party credit verification by a global certification body, SustainCERT. Corporate buyers can purchase these verified credits to help meet their supply chain sustainability targets. The project will apply ESMC’s Eco-Harvest streamlined programming to support cotton farmers’ transition to regenerative agriculture using financing provided by the Cotton Foundation. US Cotton Trust Protocol (US CTP) and Manulife Investment Management are working separately as enrollment specialists helping their network of cotton producers through ESMC eligibility requirements, sign up, and crop data entry into the Eco-Harvest Digital Platform. Read the full announcement here.
Announcing New ESMC Staff: Nicole Jain Capizzi, Protocols and Standards Manager
We are pleased to welcome Nicole as ESMC’s new Protocols and Standards Manager where she will lead the development, maintenance, and refinement of Scope 3 GHG market-based intervention accounting protocols for ESMC. In this role, Nicole builds on two decades of experience in sustainable agriculture production, standards, and program design. She was a 2022 Climate Cohort fellow with the Aspen Tech Policy Hub, focused on market incentives and financing to accelerate the transition to regenerative and climate smart agriculture. As Senior Organic Inspector with the Washington State Department of Agriculture for ten years, Nicole worked directly with farm producers and consumer packaged goods companies to uphold and interpret the USDA National Organic Program standards. Read more about Nicole and the rest of our team.
Join Our Team: ESMC/ESMRC is Hiring
ESMC/ESMRC is hiring for three positions – two Project Managers and a Policy and Engagement Manager. Read more on the positions and apply. The Project Managers will join our team in a virtual office environment and will serve on a team of additional Project Managers to plan, coordinate, implement and lead pilot projects and market projects. They will work collaboratively as part of the larger ESMC/ESMRC team and with ESMC/ESMRC members and stakeholders. These are ideal positions for candidates experienced in working with producers to implement regenerative agricultural practice changes and who are interested in joining a quickly growing and innovative organization. Both Project Manager positions are remote contracted positions within the US. The ESMC/ESMRC Policy and Member Engagement Manager will serve as ESMC/ESMRC’s lead on public policy issues that are relevant to ESMC/ESMRC’s mission and vision and the success of our agricultural ecosystem services market program. The Policy and Member Engagement Manager will identify public policy opportunities, obstacles, and barriers to a fully optimized ecosystem services market program and work to engage our members and stakeholders to achieve beneficial outcomes. The position is a contract position based in Washington DC.
ESMC in the News
Carbon Market Opportunities for RanchersRead the full article.Successful Farming (December 12) The past three years have brought more excitement and investment in carbon markets than Debbie Reed saw in her first two decades of working on the concept. She currently serves as executive director for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium. While ESMC has worked with ranchers since 2019, carbon markets for crop farmers are generally further developed at this point.
ESMC Member and Funder News
Producers and Researchers Agree, Scale Up of a Sustainable Biochar Industry Is Critical to Meet Climate Targets, and Build Agricultural Resilience and Soil HealthScaling Sustainable Biochar Research & Commercialization for Agriculture & Conservation: A Summary from a Stakeholder Convening. This report summarizes how sustainably produced and applied biochar will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change and build healthy high functioning soils. Additionally, the paper outlines research needs and gaps to scale up implementation and establish a pyrolysis biochar bioenergy industry. Read the full announcement.Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (December 3) The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (an ESMC funder), the National Center for Appropriate Technology and American Farmland Trust (an ESMC Legacy Partner member) recently released a summary report:
Companies Turning to Futures to Meet Carbon Reduction GoalsRead the full article.CME Group (November 22) In a recent article, ESMC Legacy Partner member CME Group notes that the race to achieve carbon neutrality is on. Corporations and countries alike are joining a climate initiative to shift to a decarbonized economy, driven by governments and demand from environmentally conscious consumers.
‘It All Hinges on the Herders’: World’s Largest Soil Carbon Removal Project Enlists Kenyan PastoralistsRead the full article.The Guardian (November 22) A scheme that sets down strict grazing plans to benefit the environment and generate revenue for local people was highlighted at COP27 as a future model. ESMC Legacy Partner member Native markets the credits from this Northern Kenya Rangelands Carbon Project.
Other News of Note
Soil in Midwestern US is Eroding 10 to 1,000 Times Faster than it Forms, Study Findsrecently published an article showing that the rate of soil erosion in the Midwestern US is 10 to 1,000 times greater than pre-agricultural erosion rates. These newly discovered pre-agricultural rates, which reflect the rate at which soils form, are orders of magnitude lower than the upper allowable limit of erosion set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read the full article.UMass Amherst (December 7) In a discovery that has repercussions for everything from domestic agricultural policy to global food security and the plans to mitigate climate change, researchers at the University of Massachusetts
Is This Biochar’s Big, Carbon-Rich Moment?Read the full article.Civil Eats (December 6) Farming with this amendment isn’t a climate silver bullet, but it could make more soil a carbon sponge.
Soil Health Is Human HealthRead the full article.Civil Eats (December 1) Soil-health pioneers David Montgomery & Anne Biklé discuss the nutrient benefits of regenerative practices, and how they may also be a solution to drought in the West.
Biocredits to Finance Nature and People: Emerging LessonsRead more and download the full report.International Institute for Environment and Development (December 2022) Biodiversity is degrading at alarming rates, and people living in biodiversity-rich areas often bear the heaviest costs of biodiversity loss and inequitable conservation efforts. Biodiversity credits, or ‘biocredits’, are emerging as a tradeable unit of biodiversity that can incentivize nature conservation and restoration to benefit marginalized groups living with nature. Based on a review of three existing biocredit methodologies and learning from the pitfalls of the carbon market, the authors describe three challenges in designing and implementing an effective biocredit market.
How Agriculture Can Capture the Carbon Market OpportunityRead the full article.CropLife (November 30) As the trend toward carbon emissions reduction continues to become more and more prevalent over time, American farmers are being presented with a new opportunity. By embracing and adopting certain climate-smart agriculture practices, farmers can not only help protect the environment and reduce operating costs, but also create a new income stream by selling carbon offset credits in a carbon market.
More Development Needed in Carbon Markets, Economist SaysRead the full article.Iowa Farmer Today (November 16) Carbon markets are still new to the agriculture sector and experts are continuing to identify what role they will have to reduce carbon footprints, as well as drive income for farmers. Alejandro Plastina, associate professor and Extension economist at Iowa State University, spoke at the Iowa State Pro Ag Outlook event Nov. 7 outlining what options farmers have to create carbon credits. Many of these practices, such as reduced tillage, cover crops or reduced fertilizer rates, are not new ideas to farmers who are focused on conservation, but he said not all carbon credits are created equal.