February 2021 ESMC Newsletter
Executive Director Update
This month, we are pleased to report on the outcomes of our recent reconfiguration of the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) Working Groups (WG) and Strike Teams (ST). The WGs and STs support investments in the research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) of cost-effective, scalable tools, technologies and approaches to support ESMC’s national scale, harmonized, standardized science-based ecosystem services market program. WG and ST members are made up of ESMC members, as well as independent experts who were either nominated by ESMC members or self-nominated at the initiation of the WGs in October 2019. There are currently 39 members on ESMRC WGs, 50 on STs, and 9 independent science advisors. The WGs and STs support achievement of the grant objectives and outcomes of ESMRC’s 3-year grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which we are now mid-way through.
The purpose of the WG and ST reconfiguration was to take stock after operating these WGs and STs for 18 months and to improve the efficiency of operations, allow us to assess what we have learned, identify next steps, and allow our members the opportunity to consider participating in different WGs or ST’s moving forward, as well as to identify new focal areas of investments.
As a result of the reconfiguration, ESMRC now operates four WGs, eight STs, and several project advisory committees that work in parallel to advance RDD&D activities in key areas including: improved carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) quantification (including soil carbon, soil testing and soil sampling and stratification tools and technologies; and similar work with nitrous oxide); improved water quality and water quantity modeling at field scales; and investments in improved monitoring, reporting, and verification infrastructure, tools and technologies.
All ESMRC work is focused on improved, cost-effective rigor of outcomes-based quantification of agricultural ecosystem services impacts at scale. The more rigorous and accurate our quantification approaches, the more farmers and ranchers can be paid for these quantified, verified, certified outcomes.
To kick off the reconfiguration, we undertook a survey of ESMC/ESMRC members, including WG and ST members and asked not only how the work was proceeding, but asked for input on subject matter priorities for ESMRC and the WGs and STs in the months ahead.
We received over 70 responses to the survey (a 69% response rate). While the original 4 WG topics will remain the same (i.e., C/GHG quantification, WQL/WQN quantification; MRV development, and soil C sequestration by soil type), we saw a great interest in ST participation, including in the new Grazing and Protocol Strike Teams and the new Biodiversity Strike Team, the latter of which is now our largest Strike Team with 17 participants. WGs and STs will continue to meet monthly, while STs may meet more frequently depending on need. ESMRC will also host quarterly WG and ST cross-fertilization sessions to support cross-pollination across WGs and STs and to cross-walk topics and questions identified by survey respondents.
To complete the reconfiguration process, we will next launch a national nomination process to engage independent ESMRC Science Advisors for 3 vacant spots of the original Science Advisor positions first filled October 2019. In March, we will issue a call for nominations to fill ESMRC Science Advisor vacancies in Working Group #1 (GHG Quantification), Working Group #2 (Water Quality & Quantity Quantification), and Working Group #4 (Soil Carbon Research). Prospective Science Advisors can self-nominate or be nominated by ESMC members. Applications will be reviewed by the ESMRC Steering Committee, and new advisors will be announced in April 2021.
ESMC Launches a Member Policy Committee
ESMC is launching an ESMC Policy Committee comprised of policy experts from our member organizations and ESMC’s own policy team. This committee will seek to establish a proactive presence with federal and state policymakers who are interested in the benefits of voluntary ecosystem services markets. The Policy Committee will establish high-level ESMC policy principles, develop legislative and regulatory strategies to promote those principles, track and analyze relevant policy developments, and proactively share information with members to ensure ESMC is responsive to policymaker requests for information and able to share our work as appropriate.
Frequently Asked Questions Highlight ESMC’s Program Details
Do you have questions on how ESMC’s program works for producers? What Scope 1 and Scope 3 mean in ESMC’s program? What types of practices are eligible? These questions and many more are answered on ESMC’s updated website in a new Frequently Asked Questions page.
ESMC Welcomes New Technical Product Lead
ESMC is pleased to welcome Austin Arrington to ESMC’s staff where he will serve as the ESMC/ESMRC Technical Product Lead and will be responsible for the development, oversight, and coordination of all technical and product aspects of building, launching, and supporting ESMC’s Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) platform. Austin is a software developer, scientist, and entrepreneur working on technologies to connect humans and nature. Prior to joining ESMC, he was a machine learning engineer with Teralytic, where he helped develop and bring to market technologies for monitoring and decision-making around soil health. In 2016, he founded the environmental consultancy PLANT Group, installing urban farms and green roofs across the Northeast. Austin is a published researcher and holds an M.S. in Environmental Science from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, an M.A. in Bioethics from NYU, and B.A. in English from Penn State University. Read more about ESMC’s staff here.
Employment Opportunities at ESMC/ESMRC
ESMC and ESMRC, the research arm of ESMC, have positions open 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name in the title of all files (ex. Jane Doe cover letter). All positions will remain posted until filled.
The Finance Manager will be responsible for proper maintenance of accounting records; accurate processing of financial transactions; and administration of a comprehensive set of controls and budgets designed to mitigate risk, enhance the accuracy of the ESMC’s reported financial results, and ensure that results comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), adhere to grants management standards, and result in flawless audits. The Finance Manager will report to the Chief Financial Officer and work closely with the ESMC team, and have some engagement with ESMC members, ESMRC Working Group participants and other contractors.
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 in the News
AgTech Leader FluroSat Acquires Dagan to Unlock Potential and Profitability of Resilient Agriculture
EIN Presswire (February 22)
Yesterday, FluroSat, an emerging global leader in crop science, and ESMC Technical Contractor Dagan, Inc., known for its expertise in soil health, announced the launch of Regrow – a new company providing single, systemized solutions to scaling, measuring, and monetizing resilient agriculture practices. FluroSat officially acquired Dagan in January of this year. ESMC’s Debbie Reed noted, “American’s farmers and ranchers are critical actors in stemming and combatting climate change. Regrow is the first science-based system to integrate and apply the rigor and scalability needed for producers to achieve measurable, monetizable outcomes while also allowing flexibility in how they manage their operations.” Read the full article here.
Carbon Markets Could Have Benefits But Are No Silver Bullet
Farm and Dairy (February 18)
Carbon markets, in theory, could be a win-win — farmers and foresters could get paid for storing carbon in their soil or trees, companies could offset their emissions by buying credits, and the world could see a net decrease in emissions. But as they develop, carbon markets bring a lot of questions about the roles of public and private work to address climate change, and who benefits the most from those efforts. ESMC Founding Circle member The Nature Conservancy is quoted throughout the article and ESMC is highlighted as a program offering credits for practices that help sequester carbon, improve water quality and quantity and net greenhouse gases. Read the full article here.
Clarity On Carbon’s Potential: Compare Nine of the Leading Markets
Farm Journal (February 16)
Farm Journal, an ESMC Legacy Partner member, published a roundup of the current carbon markets that are offering programs to farmers – ESMC’s program details are included as one of those leading markets. Read the full article here.
Growing Interest in Carbon Markets Coming From All Sides
Brownfield Ag News (February 12)
A recent ecosystem markets webinar hosted by the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership had more than 1600 participants registered with more than 600 questions submitted ahead of time. ESMC’s Program Director Caroline Wade represented ESMC at the webinar and noted, “We are seeing a lot of momentum and I am very optimistic that we can work collaboratively to really make sure we set up a successful marketplace, meet the needs of the buyers and provide that incentive for the producers to improve their systems.” Read the full article here.
Large Food Companies Are Looking to Lock Carbon in Soil as a Way to Meet Ambitious Emissions Goals
Ensia (February 9)
It’s well established that certain conservation practices, like no-tillage, cover cropping and rotational grazing, can boost the amount of carbon soil stores. But scientists are still understanding how factors like soil type, climate, previous land management practices and water availability impact just how much carbon is stored, and under what management conditions. One of the trickiest problems to solve is how to incentivize farmers to adopt new practices. ESMC’s Debbie Reed noted, “If you think that undertaking a new practice or systems approach is going to reduce your yield, are you going to do it? We don’t have good economic data on the costs of changing to different systems, and the potential benefits of having done that.” Read the full article here.
Look for ESMC At……
Agri-Pulse Ag & Food Policy Summit
ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate in a panel discussion at the upcoming Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit on March 22 at 8:30 am. The panel is entitled “How do we measure success? Research and measurement are fundamental to reducing carbon, improving environmental footprints”. Read more and register here.
North American Millers’ Association Conference
On April 20, ESMC’s Debbie Reed will speak at the North American Miller’s Association (NAMA) spring meeting. Read more about the meeting here.
ESMC Member News
Carbon Markets, Sustainability, Regenerative Farming: Finding a Path Forward
Precision Ag (February 21)
How do we get carbon markets to take off? And how do we know if there’s interest in adopting sustainable and regenerative farming practices on a large enough scale to make that leap forward? In a webinar held this month, two industry leaders of sustainable ag tech companies ESMC Technical Contractor Dagan Inc. and FluroSat explained the initiatives of carbon markets and sustainability data mapping technology to more than 800 registered participants: a strong and diverse representation of agricultural industry in the U.S. and Canada. The thrilling news is that yes, immense interest in carbon markets and sustainable techniques is out there. Though more importantly, there is now a clear and exciting new path sustainable ag tech companies can take to give carbon markets, regenerative agriculture, and quantifiable climate solutions better traction in the ag world for years to come. Read the full article here.
Report Details Impact of Conservation Tillage and Cover Crops on Farm Bottom Line
EDF (February 16)
To expand on growing information around the profitability of conservation agriculture, ESMC Legacy Partner member Soil Health Partnership (SHP), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and K·Coe Isom collaborated to evaluate the financial impact of conservation tillage and cover crop usage among Midwest corn and soybean farmers in a new report, Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line. The key findings from the analysis are presented here.
Agriculture Makes Gains in Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions
AGDAILY (February 12)
ESMC Legacy Partner member the American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest Market Intel reviews trends in U.S. carbon sequestration as climate-smart farming practices increase. The report reveals that U.S. carbon sinks offset 12% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sequestered 764 million metric tons during 2018. Read the full article here.
5 Cool Measurement Tools Attempting to Quantify Regenerative Agriculture
GreenBiz (February 11)
It is clear the food and agriculture sector needs to start defining regenerative agriculture specifically and measuring it quantitatively — it’s essential for the concept to scale. Some practitioners and regenerative ag pioneers are piloting new technologies to help with that process. These new tools — under development or in the early phases of testing — are helping put numbers to the abstract concept of regenerative agriculture and helping measure metrics such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other soil health considerations. The article presents five tools and includes the work of ESMC Founding Circle members General Mills, Soil Health Institute, and The Nature Conservancy as well as ESMC Technical Contractor Dagan. Read the full article here.
Scaling Up Climate-Smart Agriculture Through Transformative Investment
US Farmers and Ranchers in Action (February 2021)
A new report from US Farmers and Ranchers in Action, Transformative Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture, is an initial examination of what will be a long-term effort to bring farmers and ranchers and the financial community into productive conversation that leads to real solutions. The report was sponsored by ESMC funder United Soybean Board and includes contributions from ESMC’s Debbie Reed and many other ESMC members. Read the full article and download the report here.
Other News of Note
3 Technologies Poised to Change Food and the Planet
ZME Science (February 20)
By taking the best aspects of alternative agriculture (namely the commitment to sustainability and nutrition), the best aspects of conventional agriculture (the economic efficiency and the ability to scale) and novel technologies such as those described in the article, the world can embark on an agricultural revolution that — when combined with progressive policies around labor, nutrition, animal welfare and the environment — will produce abundant food while reducing agriculture’s footprint on the planet. Read the full article here.
US Officially Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement
The Hill (February 19)
Last Friday, the U.S. officially rejoined the Paris Agreement after former President Trump withdrew from the deal. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order that set the country on track to rejoin the global accord, but it took 30 days for the country to formally reenter. Remarking on the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, White House domestic climate adviser Gina McCarthy stressed that carrying out the country’s climate goals needs to be done in a way that gives people hope. “If we work together, we can make sure that we don’t just protect the planet, but we grow jobs with clean energy, that we do it in a way that’s going to rebuild our economy,” she said. Read the full article here.
Global Agriculture Will Be Drastically Altered by Climate Change
GreenBiz (February 18)
In much of the world, climate change is altering regional growing conditions and making them more unpredictable. Farmers are finding it harder to consistently grow enough food to meet increasing demand. Securing the world’s food supply for the future, experts assert, requires us to tally the good and the bad in the current agricultural structure, including the infrastructure and technology in food distribution systems. This article highlights impacts and possible solutions at the global scale. Read the full article here.
A Different Kind of Land Management: Let the Cows Stomp
New York Times (February 17)
Regenerative grazing can store more carbon in soils in the form of roots and other plant tissues. But how much can it really help the fight against climate change? Read the full article here.
Humanity Is Flushing Away One of Life’s Essential Elements
The Atlantic (February 8)
Life as we know it is carbon based. But every organism requires other elements, too, including nitrogen and phosphorus. Phosphorus forms the scaffolding of DNA, cell membranes, and our skeletons; it is a key element in tooth and bone minerals. This article delves into the history of phosphorus discovery, use and overuse and highlights agriculture’s role in possible solutions from manure. Read the full article here.