October 2023 ESMC Newsletter
ESMC Releases Report on Water Issue Evaluation Metrics and Conservation Practice Funding
We are pleased to publish a new ESMC report titled Metrics for Evaluating Water Issues to Inform Prioritization of Funding Conservation Practices. The report, an output of ESMC’s Technical Working Groups, provides insights into the needs and challenges faced by buyers in relation to supply shed water quality within ecosystem services markets. This report delves into the critical issue of water quality and quantity (‘water use’) in the United States, driven by the mounting pressures of a growing population, shifting climate patterns, and anthropogenic activities.
These challenges present multifaceted risks for communities and businesses, including market volatility, reputational damage, regulatory non-compliance, and operational disruptions. The report provides specific examples of these water-related challenges, such as the Colorado River’s declining water levels and the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone.
To aid in prioritizing investments in addressing water-related issues, our report summarizes nationally available metrics related to water quality and quantity, such as the WWF Water Risk Filter. Additionally, we offer examples of local resources that can further inform decision-making and discuss considerations for potential future conditions. The report, along with a summary, is available on our website.
Job Opportunities to Join ESMC
If you or someone you know would like to join our team, ESMC has four positions open, including for an Applied Soil Scientist/Agronomist, Protocol and Standards Manager, Grant Writer, and Policy and Engagement Manager. The Applied Soil Scientist and Protocol and Standards Manager positions are new postings, and we encourage you to apply or circulate to potentially interested parties. Find more information and application details for these four positions on our website.
ESMC Submits Comments to USDA on Proposal for National Identification and Traceability System
ESMC recently submitted comments in support of a Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposal for a national identification and traceability system using electronic eartags for cattle and bison. This system would implement a uniform, standardized electronic identification eartag system that protects the rights and privacy of livestock producers and other private entities that comprise the beef supply chain. Among other points, ESMC stressed that the system should be easy to access and use for all producers and should allow for future inclusion of data related to certifying credits for ecosystem services, organic production, Beef Quality Assurance, employee wellbeing, carbon reduction and storage, and other desirable elements. Read ESMC’s full feedback.
Look for ESMC At…
2023 ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting
October 29 – November 1, St. Louis, MO
The American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America (all ESMC Legacy Partner members) will jointly host the premier gathering of ideas, solutions, and innovation from across the field of environmental sciences. The Annual Meeting is equal parts science, networking, collaboration, and camaraderie and welcomes emerging learners and leaders from industry, government agencies, and academic institutions to explore advances in agronomic, crop, and soil sciences. ESMRC’s research team, Chris Smallwood and Will Lytle will attend. Learn more about the event and register.
Transform Food USA 2023: Accelerating Innovation and Collaboration for a Sustainable and Resilient Food
November 2 – 3, Minneapolis, MN
Reuters Events announces the launch of Transform Food 2023, a premier event dedicated to accelerating innovation and collaboration within the global food and agriculture industry. The event will take place on November 2-3 at the prestigious Marquette Hotel Minneapolis and will challenge 120 of the world’s most influential food decision makers to tackle the structural barriers impeding transformation at scale and unlock a viable roadmap to a net positive food future for all. ESMC’s Debbie Reed is a speaker and ESMC is a Strategic Partner at this event. Learn more and register.
2nd Annual Expanding Markets Conference
November 7 – 8, Billings, MT
The Expanding Markets Conference is a one-of-a-kind gathering where ranchers can rub shoulders with industry experts and absorb some serious knowledge about the future of regenerative ranching. ESMC’s Chief Scientist Chris Smallwood will present on Other Income Opportunities – Ecosystem Services & Carbon. Read more and register.
The Future of Climate Action: How to Tackle Scope 3 GHGs
November 8 – 9, Washington, DC
This two-day climate conference will focus entirely on the practical action business can take to tackle Scope 3 emissions. The event will highlight leading company practices and assess how business transformation, supply chain innovation, and low-carbon solutions can deliver results on the ground. The focus throughout will remain on the practical steps business can take to engage key actors, decarbonize supply chains, and achieve net zero. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will attend. Read more and register.
ESMC in the News
USDA Releases Assessment on Agriculture and Forestry in Carbon Markets
USDA (October 23)
The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), an ESMC funder, recently released A General Assessment of the Role of Agriculture and Forestry in the U.S. Carbon Markets, a comprehensive look at current market activity, barriers to participation, and opportunities to improve access to carbon markets for farmers and forest landowners. This report is the first of USDA’s deliverables under the Growing Climate Solutions Act. ESMC’s Eco-Harvest market program is highlighted as an example of an insetting program for agriculture. Read the article and download the report.
ESMC Member and Funder News
2023 Plowprint Report
WWF (October 26)
WWF’s 2023 Plowprint Report analyzes the rate of grassland plow-up across the US, and Canadian portions of the Great Plains. This analysis is based on the USDA’s annual Cropland Data Layer and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Annual Crop Inventory which looks at grasslands plow-up that has occurred two years prior to the release date. As a result, the 2023 edition reports on plow-up and conversion that occurred during 2021. WWF’s analysis finds that in 2021, 1.6 million acres of grasslands (an area larger than Delaware) were destroyed across the US and Canadian Great Plains, contributing to a total of nearly 32 million acres plowed across the region since 2012. Read the full report. WWF is an ESMC Legacy Partner member.
General Mills and Walmart Join Forces to Advance Regenerative Agriculture Across 600,000 Acres by 2030
Walmart (October 17)
A General Mills (an ESMC Founding Circle member) and Walmart collaboration will seek to support farmers in practices that aim to improve soil health, water quality and carbon sequestration across their shared value chain. Initial projects will be supported through grants administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (an ESMC funder) and seek to advance regenerative agriculture outcomes across a variety of crops, including wheat, in the Northern and Southern Great Plains. Read the full release.
Farmers Business Network Accelerates Work with ADM to Expand Regenerative Agriculture
Business Wire (October 12)
Farmers Business Network, Inc., the global AgTech platform and farmer-to-farmer network (and an ESMC Legacy Partner member), celebrates several milestones achieved and significant expansions through a growing partnership with ADM (an ESMC Founding Circle member), a global leader in sustainable agriculture supply chains. In 2022, FBN and ADM launched a collaboration allowing ADM customers to leverage FBN’s innovative digital farm business management platform, Gradable. This collaboration successfully enrolled 1,500 growers and covered over 1 million cultivated acres of farmland, rewarding producers for conservation practices like cover cropping, conservation tillage, and emission reductions. In 2023, this program will continue to grow. Read the full announcement.
Nestlé, Danone and Other Major Food Companies Commit to Framework for Regenerative Agriculture
Food Dive (October 2)
A lack of agreement over what regenerative agriculture actually means has stalled corporate sustainability efforts, confused consumers and led many to dismiss the term as “greenwashing.” By getting major food companies to agree on a definition and framework, SAI said businesses can get measurable outcomes and begin a sector-wide transition to regenerative agriculture. SAI’s members include some of the biggest players in the industry, including Nestlé, Danone, Pepsico, Unilever and Bayer (Nestlé is an ESMC Founding Circle member and Danone is an ESMC Legacy Partner member). Read the full article.
New Poll Shows Unclear Accounting Standards and Lack of Incentives Are Barriers to Corporate Action on Scope 3 Emissions
SustainCERT (September 20)
The lack of clarity surrounding international standards and service providers, opaque supply chains, lack of economic incentives and the difficulties of collecting on-the-ground data are the biggest challenges preventing companies from reducing their Scope 3 emissions, according to a recent survey published by ESMC technical partner SustainCERT. Read the full article.
Other News of Note
California Will Help BIPOC Collective Cultivate Land Access for Underserved Farmers
Civil Eats (October 24)
With a recent grant from the state of California, Ujamaa Farmer Collective hopes to provide farmers of color with land to start or grow farming businesses. Read the full article.
Arizona Takes Aim at Alfalfa Farming in Water-Stressed Regions
GroIntelligence (October 24)
Arizona’s governor has moved to cancel lease agreements with several companies that tap underground water to farm alfalfa on state-owned land, including leases held by a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia dairy giant Almarai. The governor, in explaining the action, said the companies had violated the terms of the agreements. But the Arizona leases, and the companies’ use of underground water, have also become environmental and political controversies in a state beset by growing water shortages and prolonged heat waves. Read the full article.
‘Silver Dollar Road’ Review: Black Land Loss Is Still Happening
New York Times (October 19)
The 20th century saw a mass dispossession of Black farmers. This intimate documentary focuses on one family’s recent battle to keep their home in North Carolina. Read the full article.
The Great Cash-for-Carbon Hustle
The New Yorker (October 16)
Offsetting has been hailed as a fix for runaway emissions and climate change—but the market’s largest firm sold millions of credits for carbon reductions that weren’t real. Read the full article.
New Research Shows the Global Carbon Removal Potential of Biochar
Carbon Herald (October 12)
New research was published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Biochar; this analysis quantifies biochar’s carbon removal potential across 155 countries, with net removal potential on a national and global scale, assuming a sustainable supply and no purpose-grown biomass. Read the full article.
How Building Bridges Within Supply Chains Can Unlock Opportunities in Regenerative Agriculture
GreenBiz (October 10)
Land to Market’s Wyatt Ball discusses building bridges between brands and farmers and turning land into a force for good. Read the full article.
Corn and Soy Growers Take a Step Back from Cover Crops, Says Purdue Survey
Successful Farming (October 4)
Fewer of America’s large-scale corn and soybean farmers are planting cover crops this year than last, and nobody says they’re doing it to lock carbon in the soil, said a Purdue University survey which came out earlier this month. Read the full article.
Regenerative Agriculture from Farmers’ Points of View
Sustainable Food Labs (September 27)
From a farmer’s point of view, regenerative agriculture makes sense if it solves problems and reduces risks. Farmers have been dealing with risks since they first poked seeds into the ground. Weather, markets, weeds, and insects: no two years are the same. Advocates of regenerative agriculture promote soil health as a long-term hedge against drought or floods, and rightly so, but farmers walk a tightrope in the near term. Read the full article.