Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
Our Mission: To advance ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems that benefit society.
Executive Director Update
ESMC Members, Participants and Stakeholders,A recent survey of our members, completed between June 26 and July 5 (completed by 46 respondents, including 21 companies) revealed that the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt our lives, including work-related travel. Of the respondents, 29 reported their companies had travel-related policies due to COVID, of which 5 (>10% of respondents) indicated no work-related travel was authorized until 2021, while the vast majority (>80% of respondents) indicated ongoing uncertainty about when travel and gatherings would be authorized.ESMC will continue to hold virtual meetings until travel and health and safety around public gatherings is much improved, and as pointed out by our members, we can certainly save on greenhouse gas emissions while doing so.
But our activities, like that of most, have not slowed. As we have reported, we now have a greatly expanded ESMC team, working to develop and pilot test our market-based program to reward farmers and ranchers for their ecosystem services to society and to companies whose agricultural footprints are an important part of their environmental and sustainability goals. We are refreshing our strategic plan and national program buildout internally, to ensure methodical and prioritized coverage of the US in a way that meets demand side and supply side and that further develops the infrastructure and technology investments to create a scalable, cost-effective, vibrant market.
Additionally, we received 26 incredible nominations from our members for the ESMC Producer Circle, a soon-to-be announced cadre of farmers and ranchers who will provide more in-depth and representative producer guidance to our program as we continue to refine and grow the program. ESMC’s recently appointed Board of Directors and Board members Tim Palmer and Gary Price, co-chairs of the Producer Circle, are working to select a representative slate of nominees for the inaugural launch of the program, seeking to ensure diverse representation from across the country, including diversity of production, geographic, gender, race, and ethnic representation. The Board plans to select a final slate of Producer Circle participants on July 24.
Our announcement to create a working group on Inclusion and Racial Justice has received a tremendous amount of support from our members, with 16 volunteering to participate in the working group, and 11 seeking to be kept apprised of working group activities to participate as they are able. The Working Group, to be led by ESMC team members Shiva Scotti, Chief Financial Officer, and Benjamin Bartley, Project Manager, is kicking off its activities later this month, and we will regularly report on their progress.
Finally, we are grateful to our members, collaborators and stakeholders who continue to invest their resources, time, expertise and energy in our public-private partnership. Your participation and contributions in ESMC and ESMRC, including through technical working groups, strike teams, and other crucial activities is making the process and the program stronger and better. Your participation and input and continued feedback will be particularly critical as we start to field and share more outcomes from the pilot projects that have launched. This feedback will enhance the pilots in planning stages through the collaborative feedback loop. We will soon announce the award of additional contracts to undertake R&D investments pursuant to publicly released requests for proposals; and more requests for R&D proposals will be forthcoming in the future.
We look forward to our continued work together, despite the uncertainties of the day, and know that together we will persevere.
Thank you from the entire ESMC Team
ESMC Member Meeting Update
As a reminder, ESMC is holding our August 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 soon.
ESMC Rounds out Team with Senior Director of Strategic Business Development and Membership
David Dayhoff joined ESMC this month as Senior Director of Strategic Business Development and Membership. Dayhoff will be refining and further developing ESMC’s strategic business plan to launch our national market in 2022 and to grow our program beyond. He is also working on continued membership support and development. He brings over 20 years of international business, nonprofit and government experience to ESMC/ESMRC, most recently as Vice President of Programs and Operations at Partners in Food Solutions, a non-profit consortium of international food and agribusiness companies helping accelerate growth of food processing in Sub-Saharan Africa. His non-profit leadership experience also includes serving as a Director of Hunger-Free Minnesota, a statewide innovation campaign that brought diverse players together to close Minnesota’s missing meals gap. Dayhoff also held various agribusiness marketing, strategy, and analytical roles in his over 14 years with Cargill, Inc. in the USA and Brazil. He began his career working for the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. Originally from Indiana, Dayhoff has lived abroad three times but loves his adopted home state of Minnesota, where he resides in Minnetonka with his wife and two children. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
ESMC Announces Full Slate of Members on Inaugural Board of Directors
The ESMC Board of Directors, created in May, 2019 with SHI CEO Wayne Honeycutt as the sole Ex Officio EMSC Board Member, was recently expanded to include the following new Board Members:
- Chad Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Agricultural Land Trust; ESMC Board Chair;
- Kris Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Director for Science & Planning for the North America Agriculture Program of The Nature Conservancy; ESMC Board Vice Chair
- Mary Jane Melendez, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills and President of the General Mills Foundation;
- Tim Palmer, President of National Association of Conservation Districts; And
- Gary Price, owner of 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove, Texas.
Additionally, Chad Ellis of Texas Agricultural Land Trust was elected by the Board to the position of Board Chair; and Kris Johnson of TNC was elected to the position of Board Vice-Chair. We note that all Board members previously acted in the role of ESMC Steering Committee members, and we thank them for their continued dedication and support to the vision and mission of ESMC as a national ecosystem services market to reward farmers and ranchers for their beneficial ecological outcomes. The Board will provide leadership as ESMC continues to develop and test its program to scale soil health and beneficial agricultural outcomes in the US, leading to the national market launch in 2022. Additional background information on ESMC’s Board of Directors can be found here.
Welcome to New ESMC Member
A new Legacy Partner member joined ESMC in the last month. Vence, an innovative virtual fencing system for livestock production, joined in June and will support our efforts to create a farmer focused ecosystem services market platform that meets producer needs while improving soil health systems that benefit society. Welcome to Vence!
ESMC Member News
Sand County Foundation Releases Report on Prioritizing Resources for Water Quality Goals
ESMC Legacy Partner member, Sand County Foundation, recently released its report, “Prioritizing Resources to Meeting Water Quality Goals.” The report represents a culmination of work by over 30 agriculture and water quality experts to advance water quality improvement by identifying action items and issues to be addressed. The assessment project was launched in 2018 in collaboration with other ESMC member partners, including the Noble Research Institute, Farm Foundation and USDA NRCS. Additional ESMC partners also supported the project, including The Fertilizer Institute, McKnight Foundation, The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. ESMC is highlighted on pages 40 and 41 of the report as an example of partnerships that make a difference towards improving water quality. Find a copy of the complete report here
Two ESMC Members Launch Grasslands Restoration Program
ESMC Founding Circle member, Cargill, and Legacy Partner member, World Wildlife Fund, have teamed up with Burger King to launch a three-year grasslands restoration project in the Northern Great Plains. The program aims to restore nearly 8,000 acres marginal cropland back to ecologically diverse plains, with beef cattle serving as the primary grazers in the ecosystem to maintain it. Read more here.
TNC Publishes Analysis of Potential Carbon Offsets for Airline Industry
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an ESMC Founding Circle member, published a report in June in response to recent initiatives in the airline industry, specifically the goal set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for carbon neutral growth for international aviation starting this year. In March 2020, the ICAO Council released updated guidance about which offsets will be eligible, known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Instead of creating its own carbon offsetting standard, ICAO instead invited existing carbon offset standards to apply. TNC’s report, “Lifting Off: Analysis of Potential Carbon Offset Supply for CORSIA Phase I (2021-23),” analyzes the opportunities and challenges of carbon offset credits for the international airline industry, and the role natural climate solutions can play to help reduce overall emissions. Download a copy of the report here, and read more about TNC’s perspectives here.
Look for ESMC at . . .
75th International Soil & Water Conservation Society Annual Conference
The ESMC team will be in attending and participating in the 2020 Annual Conference of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. Debbie Reed will be presenting an ESMC paper on Ecosystem Services Markets as part of a special Symposium featuring authors of articles to be published in the SWCS 75th Anniversary special edition journal. The Symposium will be held on Tuesday July 28, 2020, from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time.Bruce Knight is moderating ae Conservation Economics & Policy Symposium Session entitled “Creating a Market for Conservation” on July 29 from 3:00 – 4:30 Central Time, joined by fellow ESMC team members, Caroline Wade, Paul Meints, Cassie Aherin and Benjamin Bartley, along with Mike Komp of CTIC and Patrick Lawrence of Repliculture, ESMC member and technical contractor, respectively.This 75th anniversary conference is being held for the first time ever as a virtual conference July 27 – 29. Registration deadline is July 15; information may be found here
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Webinar
ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed will be co-presenting on a “Carbon Markets and Ecosystem Services Bundling” webinar being hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) at 12:00 noon Central Time on August 6. Check the NCAT calendar found here for registration details to be posted prior to the webinar.
Missouri Farm Bureau Commodity Conference
ESMC Project Manager Cassie Aherin will be speaking on August 6 at the Missouri Farm Bureau Commodity Conference being held in Jefferson City, Missouri, August 6 – 7. She will be presenting on “The Emerging Carbon Market.” Further information found here.
2020 Sustainable Agronomy Conference
The American Society of Agronomy will be holding its 2020 Sustainable Agronomy Conference August 18 – 20 as a virtual event. Bruce Knight will be presenting in the morning session on “Economics of Sustainable Agronomy: Opportunities for Practitioners.” He will be joined by ESMC partners, Ryan Sirolli of Cargill (as a fellow panelist) and moderator Rod Snyder of Field to Market. Registration and additional information is here.
. . . 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
Nicolas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Releases Report on Rural Attitudes on Climate Change
Following a nationwide report of rural attitudes toward the environment and conservation published in February 2020, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy at Duke University released a new report this month entitled, “Rural Attitudes on Climate Change: Lessons from National and Midwest Polling and Focus Groups.” The report takes a closer look at attitudes about climate change among rural voters and includes a regional focus on the upper Midwest. Despite polarization on climate change among rural voters (mainly based on political party), the authors found some policy solutions that draw more widespread support. Policies that incentivize the contribution that agriculture can make toward climate change mitigation and those that offered economic (as well as environmental) benefits to rural communities were popular. In the Midwestern survey, rural voter support for acting on climate change jumped more than 20 percent when it was explicitly tied to also helping farmers. Download and read the full report here
‘We Have One Earth’: Researchers Work to Boost Farm Production Without Causing More Harm
KCUR/NPR in Kansas City (July 9) – Climate change and environmental damage caused by large-scale agriculture have researchers across the country searching for ways to increase productivity without causing more damage. The Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network, formally established in 2012, has been working to combine local data into a national understanding of what might need to change. Read the full article here.
Soil Carbon Research Reduces Uncertainty in Predicting Climate Change Impacts
PHYS.ORG (July 9) – A collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several DOE National Labs, including Argonne National Lab, set out to predict and model the effect of environmental controllers, or soil-forming factors—climate, organisms, topography, parent material and time—on soil organic carbon at different spatial scales across the continental United States. The results of the soil organic carbon study, published in the journal Geoderma, are intended to reduce uncertainty in predicting global carbon climate feedbacks and associated climate change. Read the full article here.
Spreading Rock Dust on Fields Could Remove Vast Amounts of CO2 From Air
The Guardian (July 8) – Spreading rock dust on farmland could suck billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air every year, according to the first detailed global analysis of the technique recently published in the journal Nature. The chemical reactions that degrade the rock particles lock the greenhouse gas into carbonates within months, and some scientists say this approach may be the best near-term method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Read the full article here.
US Rep. Harder Introduces FARM Act to Support Agriculture Efforts to Fight Climate Change
Representative Josh Harder (July 6) – On July 6, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) introduced the Future of Agricultural Resiliency and Modernization (FARM) Act which would help farmers across the country to more effectively fight climate change. The bill would establish two new climate-focused initiatives to support the efforts of farmers on the ground. The first would provide over $2.5 billion in funding to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase carbon sequestration, improve air, water, and soil quality, and convert agriculture byproducts to efficient uses. The second would establish a first-of-its-kind Pyrolysis grant program to help tree nut farmers convert by-products into climate-friendly biocarbon products. Read the full press release here.
Guest Opinion: Agriculture has Important Role in Carbon Markets
Ag Update: Center for Rural Affairs Guest Contributor (July 6) – On June 26, U.S. Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), members of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced a companion bill to the Growing Climate Solutions Act, H.R. 7393. The Senate bill, S. 3894, was introduced by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in early June. “These bills come at a critical time for both the agriculture industry and the environment,” said Kayla Bergman, policy associate for the Center of Rural Affairs. “They also solidify the important role agriculture plays in addressing climate change by providing a good path forward for carbon markets.” Read the full article here.
Ag’s Role in U.S. House Climate Change Plan
DTN (July 1) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives released a plan on June 30 to address climate change through extensive investment in renewable energy that also includes ways agriculture and rural America would play roles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. . . . . After months of hearings, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released the 547-page report that focuses on “rapid development of wind, solar, energy efficiency and other zero-carbon energy sources,” which includes heavy investment in new transmission infrastructure as well. The ambitious goal of the plan would be an economy with 100% net-zero emissions by 2050. Read the full article here. A full copy of the report of the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis may be found here.
CDFA Now Accepting Proposals on New Management Practices for the Healthy Soils Program
CA Department of Food and Agriculture (June 29) – The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI), in coordination with the agency’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel, is now accepting proposals for new soil carbon sequestration management practices for inclusion in its Healthy Soils Program (HSP). As part of program development beginning in 2016, CDFA identified specific soil management practices eligible for funding through the HSP. In total, 27 management practices that sequester carbon are now included in the program. Proposal requirements, process for consideration and other details on the submission process can be found here. Proposals are due by 5 p.m. PT on August 28, 2020. Read the full press release here.