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: Congratulations to World Food Prize 2020 Laureate Dr Rattan Lal
During this season of Nobel Prize winners, I would like to take the chance to recognize the winner of the 2020 World Food Prize, Dr. Rattan Lal of Ohio State University. The Prize was announced
in June 2020. The World Food Prize – referred to often as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture,” “recognizes an individual who has enhanced human development and confronted global hunger through improving the quality, quantity or availability of food.”Dr Lal’s work investigating the role of soil carbon and soil carbon sequestration in agricultural production systems paved the way for all that we know today about soil carbon sequestration and its link to increased soil tilth, productivity, and fertility. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr Lal in the late 1990s when I was working on agricultural and climate change for US Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska. Dr Lal of Ohio State University and Dr John Kimble, then of the USDA soil health laboratory in Lincoln, Nebraska, spoke together during an EPA-sponsored symposium on soil carbon sequestration in Washington, DC. Dr Lal’s vibrant and enthusiastic knowledge of soil carbon and its role in agricultural productivity and resilience was compelling and contagious. Senator Kerrey immediately seized on the opportunity to engage Dr Lal in helping other lawmakers realize the role and the potential of soil in improving the human condition, and in combating climate change. We tapped that knowledge and enthusiasm a great deal over the next few years as we pursued a means to reward farmers and ranchers for their actions that can help reduce GHG. We invited Dr Lal to testify before the Senate, and to brief Senators and their staff; he penned books and letters to help convince policymakers of the critical role of agriculture in soil carbon sequestration as a win-win approach to combating climate change.Dr Lal’s tireless work, his compassion and drive, and insightful application of this work to humankind has thus been instrumental in both scientific and research as well as policy arenas. Over the years, as I have continued to work in the climate and agriculture space in various capacities, I have had the continued pleasure to work with Dr. Lal. His prolific body of research, publications, and contributions to the global discussion on soil health, soil carbon sequestration, and agricultural climate change mitigation and human livelihoods is evidence of the merit of this award and the countless others he has received over his career.
I want to congratulate Dr Lal, and thank him on behalf of ESMC and our many members, partners, and collaborators. I personally owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Lal for educating me and always being willing to share his knowledge selflessly. Collectively, we knowingly or unknowingly owe a debt of gratitude to him for our ability to focus on scaling soil health systems that benefit society – work that builds on the foundation of soil carbon and soil health that he has dedicated a lifetime pursuing. Click here for a complete bio of 2020’s World Food Prize Laureate, Dr Rattan Lal.
ESMC Pilot Project Updates
ESMC and partners recently launched three pilot projects in Illinois, Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest. ESMC is pilot testing its full market delivery approach through these pilots and demonstration projects in preparation for our 2022 market launch. Working with ESMC’s extensive network of members, partners, and collaborators, the pilots will test and refine ESMC’s integrated ecosystem services credit protocol and new technologies in each major geographic region and agricultural production system as the effort is scaled across the United States. Recently launched pilots include:
Illinois: ESMC and members, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and GROWMARK, have partnered on a pilot project in central Illinois. With a target of 10,000 acres, farmers enrolled in the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program will have an opportunity to participate in the ESMC pilot to further test the protocol for carbon, net GHGs, and water quality quantification and asset generation. Additional details on the project can be found here.
Minnesota: ESMC and Founding Circle Member The Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched a pilot in Minnesota to help farmers receive financial benefits for their regenerative agricultural practices which help improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and reduce nutrient runoff from fields. With a target of enrolling 50,000 corn and soybean acres over three years in central MN, the pilot is leveraging existing cost share and technical assistance funding from project partners, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. To learn more about the pilot, see the full release here.
Pacific Northwest: ESMC, ESMC Legacy Partner Sustainable Northwest, Oregon State University (OSU), and four Oregon ranchers are collaborating on a pilot project to enable ranchers to participate in ecosystem services markets. The pilot project will also test innovative soil carbon sampling strategies, rangeland conservation practices, and reduce GHG emissions to mitigate climate change. The project, Securing Oregon Rancher Access to Ecosystem Service Markets, received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service through their state Conservation Innovation Grant program. Read more about this collaborative pilot here.
Request for Proposals: Policy Paper on Ecosystem Service Asset Generation through Livestock Grazing on Public Lands
ESMC seeks development of a white paper on policies relevant to private, voluntary ecosystem services markets that generate soil carbon, net GHG, water quality, and water quantity credits. The white paper should assess the policy landscape to further inform the refinement of ESMC’s protocols, business plan, projects, and market. For this assessment, grazing on public lands encompasses the management of livestock on grasslands, range, pasture, and silvopasture systems owned by state or federal government under a valid permit or lease with the appropriate agency. Since soil health is one important component of ecosystem services from agricultural working lands, we include the USDA NRCS definition of soil health as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” The geographic scope of the assessment is limited to the agricultural working lands of the lower 48 states. The submission deadline is Monday, October 19. View the full RFP here.
ESMC and ESMRC, the research arm of ESMC, have several new positions open immediately 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.
Chief Technology Officer
ESMRC seeks a highly skilled, motivated, and innovative Chief Technology Officer (CTO) (FTE contractor) with experience in leading the development of successful technology tools and/or platforms to join a small and dynamic, fast-paced team environment. The CTO will be responsible for the development, oversight, and coordination of all technical and product aspects of building, launching, and supporting the MRV platform through collaboration with the ESMC team, ESMC members, ESMRC Working Group participants, and other ESMC/ESMRC contractors. The CTO will drive day-to-day development as well as long-term product strategy and vision.
ESMRC seeks an energetic Research Coordinator (FTE contractor) with experience in the agricultural field to join a small and dynamic, fast-paced team environment. The role requires a proactive self-starter approach, complex decision making, and close coordination with the ESMC/ESMRC Program Director, Project Managers, Post-docs/Research Scientists, and Working Group members and technical experts to initiate innovative research projects, guide development and implementation, coordinate RFP releases and reviews, synthesize information, cross-fertilize ideas and learnings across all technical Working Groups, and lead project tracking and reporting, including in field demonstrations and pilot projects.
Cropland Project Manager
ESMC seeks a Cropland Project Manager to lead projects and field demonstrations on cropland systems across the country in a manner that integrates related workstreams of ESMC and ESMRC. The role requires a proactive approach, complex decision making in a rapidly evolving arena, and close coordination with ESMC’s Program Management team, including the Rangeland and Producer Circle Project Manager, the Certification Project Manager, and ESMRC’s Research Coordinator. The Cropland Project Manager will primarily lead cropland project and field demonstration planning, implementation, oversight and evaluation in coordination with ESMC members, partners and team as the market program continues to be refined and expanded. The role requires coordination with protocol adaptation and refinement activities and with activities to certify ESMC protocols, credits, and programs.
Rangeland and Producer Circle Project Manager
ESMC seeks a Rangeland and Producer Circle Project Manager to lead projects and field demonstrations on rangeland management systems across the country, and to lead and support ESMC’s Producer Circle membership category, in a manner that integrates related workstreams of ESMC and ESMRC. The role requires a proactive approach, complex decision making in a rapidly evolving arena, and close coordination with ESMC’s Program Management team, including the Cropland Project Manager, the Certification Project Manager and ESMRC’s Research Coordinator. The Rangeland and Producer Circle Project Manager will primarily lead rangeland management system and field demonstration project planning, implementation, oversight, and evaluation in coordination with ESMC members, partners and team as the Program is refined and expanded; and will be the ESMC lead in managing, on-boarding, and supporting the Producer Circle in concert with the Producer Circle co-chairs, who also serve on ESMC’s Board of Directors. The role requires coordination with protocol adaptation and refinement activities and with activities to certify ESMC protocols, credits, and programs.
ESMRC Postdoctoral Researchers
ESMRC seeks two dedicated ESMRC Postdoctoral Researchers (PTE contractors) with experience in the agricultural field to join a small and dynamic, fast-paced team environment. Postdoctoral Researchers will focus on one of two topics that relate directly to the impacts of soil health and other conservation practices on ecosystem services outcomes within agricultural systems: 1) soil carbon and agricultural GHG quantification, including soil carbon sequestration sampling and modeling, and modeling of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural systems; and 2) water quality and water quantity quantification and modeling.
ESMC in the News
ESMC’s Debbie Reed was a featured speaker at the 2020 Borlaug Dialogue roundtable on Carbon Sequestration, Sustainability in Agriculture and the Rise of Carbon Marketsalong with Michigan Senator The Honorable Debbie Stabenow and Dr Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, and winner of the 2020 World Food Prize. Senator Stabenow’s comments are provided here. ESMC endorsed the Braun-Stabenow Growing Climate Solutions Act S.3894 and submitted written testimony for the hearing. ESMC and other supporters of the legislation, including ESMC members, are documented here.
ESMC Member News
ESMC Welcomes Four New Legacy Partner Members
GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving cooperatives, retailers, businesses, and customers in the U.S. and Canada. GROWMARK provides customers with fuels, lubricants, crop nutrients, crop protection products, seed, construction services, equipment, and grain marketing assistance. To learn more, visit the GROWMARK website
National Association of Wheat Growers
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) was founded more than 70 years ago by producers who wanted to work together for the common good of the industry. Today, NAWG works with its 20 affiliated state associations and many coalition partners on issues as diverse as federal farm policy, environmental regulation, the future commercialization of emerging technologies in wheat and uniting the wheat industry around common goals. To learn more, visit the NAWG website.
Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops
The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) is a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to developing tools for measuring sustainable performance across specialty crop (all fruit, nut, and vegetable) supply chains. SISC offers a suite of outcomes-focused metrics enabling operators to benchmark, compare, and communicate their own performance. To learn more, visit the SISC website.
X – The Moonshot Factory
X is a diverse group of inventors and entrepreneurs who build and launch technologies that aim to improve the lives of millions, even billions, of people. Their goal: 10x impact on the world’s most intractable problems, not just 10% improvement. They approach projects that have the aspiration and riskiness of research with the speed and ambition of a startup. To learn more, visit the X – The Moonshot Factory website.
Nestlé Joins U.S. Dairy Industry to Help Make Sustainability More Accessible and Affordable to Farmers
Feedstuffs (October 12)
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy unveiled the Net Zero Initiative, an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices. The initiative is a critical component of the U.S. dairy industry’s environmental stewardship goals – endorsed by dairy industry leaders and farmers – to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage and improved water quality by 2050. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy also announced a key milestone on its journey toward carbon neutrality: a commitment of up to $10 million and multiyear partnership with ESMC Founding Circle Member Nestlé to support the Net Zero Initiative and scale access to environmental practices and resources on farms across the country. Read the full announcement here.
Look for ESMC at . . .
Modeling Environmental Dynamics with DNDC and OpTIS Data
This webinar will highlight how a variety of users are employing the DeNitrification-DeComposition (DNDC) model and OpTIS satellite imagery technology to estimate the influence of soil health practices on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics. The one-hour webinar will be held Friday, October 16, at 11:00 am ET. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate as a speaker to highlight ESMC’s work and use of these tools. Register here
This three-day virtual event, October 19 – 21, is designed to raise awareness about conservation and responsible resource use, and create understanding about how appropriately managed hunting, fishing, and agricultural activities around the world are critical to further conservation resulting in environmentally protective use of the biosphere. On October 20th at 4 pm ET, ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate in a regenerative agriculture panel. Read more here.
The VERGE 20 event, online from October 26 – 30, includes 15,000 clean economy leaders—from the private and public sectors, utilities, solution providers, investors, and startups—advancing systemic solutions to address the climate crisis through five key markets: carbon removal, the circular economy, clean energy, electrified transportation and sustainable food systems. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will be a panelist discussing How to Scale Regenerative Agriculture and Draw Down Carbon and will be speaking at 12 pm ET on Tuesday, October 27. Read more here.
T3 Fertilizer Virtual Conference – Trends, Technology, and Transportation
The “T3 Fertilizer Conference”, held November 4 – 5, is designed to be the preeminent education conference for the fertilizer industry. Drawn from the popular Fertilizer Outlook and Technology and North American Fertilizer Transportation Conferences of years past, this new conference covers technology, trends, and transportation, hence the name “T3.” On November 4 at 11 am ET, ESMC’s Debbie Reed will speak in the keynote session entitled Opening Carbon Credit Markets. Register 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
World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for Work During Pandemic
NY Times (October 9)
The World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for its efforts to combat a surge in global hunger amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has swept around the world with devastating impact. The World Food Program — the largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security internationally — last year provided assistance to nearly 100 million people in 88 countries. Read the full article here
Growing Opportunities in the Carbon Field for Agriculture and Forestry
National Law Review (October 9)
Environmental sustainability and carbon management are increasingly part of the lexicon in corporate boardrooms around the world. On a parallel track, nations, states, and municipalities are grappling with thorny questions about how and whether to regulate carbon, the result of which has been a patchwork regulatory and policy initiatives. The agricultural and forestry industries are no strangers to these dynamics, and have been leaders in sustainability practice, standards, and accountability. As such, agriculture and forestry are well positioned to leverage new opportunities in the carbon management sector. Read the full article here.
The World’s First Carbon Dioxide Removal Law Database
Phys.org (October 9)
Researchers at Columbia University launched the world’s first database of carbon dioxide removal laws. The publicly-available database provides an annotated bibliography of legal materials related to carbon dioxide removal and carbon sequestration and use. The site has 530 resources on legal issues related to carbon dioxide removal, including such techniques as: direct air capture; enhanced weathering; afforestation/reforestation; bioenergy with carbon capture and storage; biochar; ocean and coastal carbon dioxide removal; ocean iron fertilization; and soil carbon sequestration. Read the full article here.
The Proliferation of Sustainability Accounting Standards Comes With Costs
The Economist (October 3)
Today 58% of companies in America’s S&P 500 index publish a sustainability report, up from 37% in 2011, according to Datamaran, a software provider. Among the photos of blooming flowers and smiling children, firms sneak in environmental, social and governance (ESG) data, such as their carbon footprint or the share of women on boards. But the information differs wildly from firm to firm. Read the full article here.
Introducing a Different Way for Farmers to Invest in Their Lands and Sustainable Practices
Climate Action Reserve (September 30)
The Climate Action Reserve Board of Directors adopted the Soil Enrichment Protocol (SEP) Version 1.0, creating a new way for farmers to improve the health, profitability and resilience of their agricultural lands while helping address climate change, which continues to have a significantly negative impact on their work and livelihoods. In the US, agriculture accounts for nine percent of all GHG emissions, and agricultural lands have a unique capacity to sequester, store and emit CO2 while sustainable management of these lands also can reduce emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O. This offset protocol provides an opportunity for farmers to invest in sustainable management of their agricultural lands while addressing climate change. Read the full article here.
New Study Reveals That Soil Is a Significant Carbon Sequestration Driver
Phys.org (September 25)
As harmful atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to increase, understanding the planet’s carbon balance is increasingly important. A new report by U.S. National Science Foundation-funded ecologists at Arizona State University has quantified the global soil carbon sequestered by roots and the amount leached into the soil. It reveals that climate and land-use are major influencers of below-ground carbon sequestration. Read the full article here.
Study: U.S. Commodity Farmers Imperil Biodiversity for Ever-Lower Yields
Fern’s Ag Insider (September 24)
In less than a decade, U.S. corn, soybean, and wheat fields wiped out an expanse of native grasslands and other ecosystems larger than the state of Maryland, according to a new analysis in Nature Communications. And the new fields produced lower crop yields than existing farmland. Farmers long ago plowed up the prairie’s richest soils in what we now think of as the Corn Belt, but mostly avoided sloped or wet areas and stretches with poorer soils. Starting in the mid-2000s, however, farmers began cropping that “marginal” land as well. Read the full article here.