ESMC and the Almond Board of California Launch First Project for Almond Growers to Create Ecosystem Services Credits

November 17, 2022

ESMC and the Almond Board of California announce a pilot project to reward California almond growers for conservation practices that result in measurable climate impacts. The project will test and streamline the creation and sale of environmental credits from almond orchards in California under ESMC’s Eco-Harvest program. Eco-Harvest stacks multiple ecosystem services credits, including increased soil carbon, reduced greenhouse gases, improved water quality, and water use conservation as a unique and attractive option for farmers and for buyers seeking high quality carbon and environmental credits.

In 2022, the project enrolled more than 1,200 acres in California and plans to expand enrollment for the 2023 pilot year. Participating growers are implementing practices including whole orchard recycling, compost application, and cover crops. When almond trees become less productive at approximately 25 years, they are ground and incorporated back into the soil through whole orchard recycling. This practice, along with adding compost and planting cover crops, can increase soil carbon and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. To increase water use efficiency on almond orchards, the project is implementing irrigation management practices. With California growing 80 percent of the world’s almonds, providing growers the opportunity to be paid for conservation practices can have a large impact on emissions and water use.

Once growers are enrolled in ESMC’s Eco-Harvest program, ESMC can quantify credits and arrange third party credit verification. Food and beverage companies who source almonds from participating growers can use these verified credits to help the company meet their own supply chain sustainability targets. General Mills is the first food and beverage company to join this project as a buyer. In the first project year, almond growers in California, a key sourcing region for General Mills, will be paid for these credits. The Almond Board of California is working to identify and enroll additional growers in the project and ESMC is working to engage other food and beverage companies who are interested in incentivizing conservation practices, so they can purchase ecosystem services credits from California almond growers.

“The Almond Board of California has funded research and supported the stewardship efforts of California almond growers over many years, and this project builds on our work identifying practices that provide ecosystem services. We look forward to incentivizing our growers for their conservation practices and continuing to showcase the industry’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and water use in almond orchards through projects like this,” noted Gabriele Ludwig, Director for Sustainability & Environmental Affairs at the Almond Board of California.

“General Mills is delighted to be the first buyer participating in ESMC’s almond pilot project,” said Margot Conover, Water Stewardship Initiative Lead at General Mills. “Almonds are a featured ingredient in many of our products. Through this holistic effort, we see great opportunity to increase soil carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and increase water use efficiency, while also rewarding farmers for the quantifiable impact they’re having on the environment. We look forward to continued collaboration on this project to have the greatest impact.”

ESMC’s Executive Director Debbie Reed stated, “As we continue to build out market program scope and scale, we are excited to launch this almond project – our first working with orchards. Almonds are California’s top valued agricultural export commodity and projects like this highlight the industry’s continued focus on sustainability. Working with our partner, the Almond Board of California, we can reward growers for the measured outcomes from conservation practice adoption.”

© 2023 Ecosystem Services Market Consortium

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