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State Level Soil Health Policy Resources Released

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) today released an update to its state level Soil Health Policy Resources Catalog of legislative, agency, and academic policies and programs to advance soil health. The updated catalog, housed on the SHI website, also includes information on non-profit and for-profit entities.

SHI published the original catalog in July 2018 to help facilitate cross-pollination, learning and coordination across dispersed policies and programs. Since that time, the number of soil health programs and policies has significantly increased. For example, the number of legislative bills to advance soil health increased from 9 in 2018 to 53 by the end of 2019. The updated catalog now includes: 32 academic institutions, 85 state agencies, 53 state legislative bills, 87 non-profit entities, and 23 for-profit organizations.

“It is exciting to see such an increase in the number of initiatives to enhance the vitality and productivity of soils, particularly at the state level,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, SHI President and CEO. “Soil health is the foundation for regenerative and sustainable agriculture, and such efforts at state and local levels help ensure local impact by considering locally relevant soils, climates, and production systems. Our goal in developing this catalog of policies and programs is to provide a resource where anyone wanting to learn what others have done can do so without having to reinvent the wheel for themselves.”

A case in point is the “Healthy Soils Task Force” established under Nebraska legislative bill 243. “As Chair of the Task Force, it is my job to help our members research and review effective soil health programs being done in other states and through other organizations so that we can build upon their success,” said Keith Berns, Chair of the Task Force. “This is a daunting task, but the Soil Health Institute’s catalog on soil health resources will be an invaluable tool in helping us reach our goals. It is a huge timesaver for the people on our Task Force.”

Recognizing that keeping such a catalog updated is a significant challenge, SHI invites additions that can be nominated on a form at the end of the catalog.

To view the catalog, visit https://soilhealthinstitute.org/resources/catalog/.

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter January, 2020

ESMC 2020 Priorities  
As we begin 2020, we are cognizant that there is much to achieve and collectively accomplish with our members and stakeholders to prepare for a national market launch in 2022. We are eager and excited to continue our progress! Our quarterly in-person meetings with ESMC members are opportunities to collectively decide on priorities and actions and to make decisions on critical R&D elements to fund via ESMRC, the research arm of ESMC.ESMRC working groups are tackling technical and functional issues associated with market development, and teeing up decisions and investment opportunities for members to collectively make at our meetings. We are finalizing launch plans for several new pilots in the Midwest as well as new pilots in the Southern Great Plains – adding row crop systems to our existing pilots on rangelands and grazing lands. We will continue to share learnings and outcomes from our 2019 pilot with members, and will soon announce the sale of credits from that pilot – a particularly exciting outcome.

Various of the 2020 pilots will test new ecosystem services asset quantification tools and technologies. Finally, we are kicking off a program level certification process with SustainCERT to certify ESMC protocols and Scope 1 and Scope 3 GHG assets, including by working with our members during and through the 2020 pilots.

2020 will be another busy year for ESMC – and we are grateful to our members and supporters for their continued engagement and thoughtful inputs. Together we are building the premier ecosystem services market to reward US farmers and ranchers for their ecosystem services. We look forward to continuing to share plans and progress as 2020 proceeds and as we prepare for the 2022 full market launch.


Working Groups Update   
The ESMRC Working Groups have been busy evaluating and identifying priority research needs focused on the research, development, demonstration and deployment of cost-effective, scalable technologies and approaches to support the launch of the ecosystem services market.

Working Group #1 (GHG Assets) has been hosting presentations with experts on carbon measurement technologies as they work to narrow down a list of promising innovative tools for further evaluation and pilot testing. An RFP for the evaluation is expected to be released in mid-February.

Working Group #2 (Water Assets) has done similar work, hosting deep dive presentations on the Water Quality Index and Nutrient Tracking Tool, as they refine the water quality quantification approach and identify needed improvements for regional calibration and quantification. A multi-member team has convened to propose work that leverages the interest and efforts of several organizations to serve multiple water quality quantification modeling needs. Working Group #2 is also working to define a more robust and regionally relevant approach to Scope 3 water reporting while minimizing the time and effort required by farmers to participate. An Edge-of-Field Practices Strike Team has formed and is reviewing practices that will need to be included in the regional adaptations of ESMC’s protocol.

Working Group #3 (MRV Platform) has been diving into detailed specifications for building out the MRV platform and coordinating data collection, quantification, and verification components. They have identified the need for a project to specifically focus on efficiency improvements as the protocol expansion is piloted. A sub-group, the Data Standardization Strike Team, has formed and is examining the alignment of data collection across programs and modeling inputs.

Working Group #4 (Soil Carbon Research) is working on three potential project RFPs to be released in mid-February with goals of better understanding long-term carbon sequestration studies, land use history impacts on soil, and how current field studies and modeling can be combined to develop a spatial prediction of soil C sequestration potential for U.S. agricultural soils under soil health management systems. Several participants from both WG#1 and WG#4 have joined together as a SOP Strike Team and are refining the ESMC soil sampling Standard Operating Procedures to ensure measurement consistency and accommodation of regional and production system differences.

We welcome new members and science advisors named to the working groups as follows (list of existing members may be found here):  WG1 – Brooks Coetzee, Corteva/Granular; Bill Salas, Dagan; and Allison Thompson, Field to Market; WG2 – Chris Kopman, Newtrient; Kathy Boomer, FFAR; and Allison Thomson, Field to Market.  Sara Walker has replaced Paul Reig as the Science Advisor from World Resources Institute; WG3 – Chris Boomsma, Tri-Societies; Chisara Ehiemere, Field to Market; Jeremy Peters, NACD; Julie DiNatale, Corteva/Granular; and Ian Cooke, Dagan; and WG4 – Jim Wallace, Newtrient.


Gold Standard Certification and ESMC 
In December, ESMC entered into agreement with SustainCERT, the official certification body for the Gold Standard for the Global Goals. The Gold Standard will allow ESMC, in collaboration with membership, to quantify, certify and maximize progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals and supply chain reporting and other market requirements. ESMC will work with SustainCERT to secure and maintain Gold Standard certification for ESMC protocols and for Scope 1 and Scope 3 GHG assets, and ultimately, water assets as well, Work will include collaborative efforts during the pilot project process with ESMC members.


New Funding Awards for ESMC  
ESMC is pleased to announce a new grant award in support of ESMC work. ESMC is a collaborator with ESMC member Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) on a project focused on a phosphorus load reduction trading program in the Great Lakes Region.  CTIC received $479,782 from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to support this project, and ESMC will share partnership opportunities with members under the GLRI grant during our February meeting. Congratulations and thanks to our partner and member, CTIC!


Welcome New Members 
New Legacy Partner members of ESMC include: the American Farm Bureau Federation, K-Coe Isom, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. We welcome and thank you for your engagement.


ESMC Member Updates 
Survey Deadline: ESMC members received an email on behalf of the ESMC team from Project Manager Caroline Wade on January 7 with a link to the Member Priorities Survey. Please be sure to share your input and feedback on priorities, opportunities and needs by completing this survey before the January 28 close date.

Meeting Registration: ESMC members are reminded to register for the third quarterly ESMC in-person member meeting to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, February 11-12, if you have not already done so. Thank you!

ESMC Member News
Bunge Closes Deal on Sustainability-linked Credit Facility
Bunge, a Founding Circle member of the ESMC, announced its successful close by its subsidiary, Bunge Finance Europe B.V. of its first sustainability-linked revolving credit facility in December 2019. Read more here. Congratulations!


Cargill Expands Climate Change Commitments; Reinforces Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement Goals  
Last week, ESMC Founding Circle member Cargill announced its commitment to reduce supply chain emissions by 30% by 2030. ESMC was cited among other initiatives and activities to support Cargill’s focus on supply chain interventions to benefit farmers. The full announcement may be read here. As noted in the article, Cargill has also signed on to the We are Still In Coalition to indicate continued support for the Paris Climate Accord. Other EMSC Founding Circle members who are signatories include Danone North America, McDonald’s, and Nestle USA, along with Legacy Partner, Mars Inc.

Look for ESMC at . . . 
Farm Futures Business Summit 2020
January 23 – ESMC team member, Bruce Knight, will be presenting on a panel, “Hitting Pay Dirt with Soil Health ROI,” sponsored by ESMC member, Anuvia Plant Nutrients in Iowa City, Iowa.


EarthXConservation Ambassadors Dinner 
January 25 – ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed is an invited participant at this dinner hosted by Trammel Crow in Dallas TX, in preparation for the EarthXConservation conference.


Farm Journal Foundation Trust in Food 
January 29-30 – ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed will deliver the closing Keynote, “Ecosystem Market Services as a New Frontier for Farmer Financial Resilience,” at the Trust in Food conference in Chicago.


Leveraging Partnerships to Impact Climate Change
February 4 – ESMC team member Bruce Knight will be participating in this event sponsored by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and World Farmers Organization in Washington, DC.


Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show 
February 5-7 – Debbie Reed will be representing ESMC at this meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in San Antonio, Texas.


2020 NASEO Energy Policy Outlook Conference and Innovation Summit 
February 6 – Bruce Knight will be serving on a plenary panel entitled “Energy, Economic, and Climate Policy and Programs in the Field: Improving Rural and Agricultural Adaptability and Sustainability” at this summit sponsored by the National Association for State Energy Officials February 4–7 in Washington, DC.


FFAR Foster our Future
February 6 – ESMC Team members in attendance at this event of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture in Washington DC.


American Sugarbeet Growers Association Annual Meeting
February 8 – ESMC team member, Bruce Knight, will be speaking to members of the American Sugarbeet Growers at their Annual Meeting in Orlando.


National Association of Conservation Districts
February 10 – Bruce Knight will serve on the “Innovation, Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services” break-out session panel at the annual meeting in Las Vegas. Meeting information may be found here.

Other News of Note
Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Set New Record this Year, but Rate of Growth Shrinks 
E&E News (December 4, 2109) – Global carbon emissions are expected to hit an all-time high in 2019, scientists say, smashing a previous record set in 2018. By the end of the year, emissions from industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels will pump an estimated 36.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And total carbon emissions from all human activities, including agriculture and land use, will likely cap off at about 43.1 billion tons. Continue reading full article here.


Behind Walmart’s Push to Eliminate 1 Gigaton of Greenhouse Gases by 2030
CNBC (December 15, 2019) – As the climate crisis facing the planet becomes more immediate — fueled by powerful images that include devastating floods in Venice and uncontrollable wildfires in the Amazon — companies are waking up to the role they play in climate change and announcing plans for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. But one company was very much ahead of the curve. Walmart has been focused on sustainability since 2005. Continue reading article here.


Greenhouse Gases Now Part of Pollution Agency’s Feedlot Permit Process
West Central Tribune (December 14, 2019) – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced Friday, Dec. 13, that from now on, any animal feedlot operators with plans to expand must include a check of greenhouse gas emissions. Read more here.

Warming climate brings ‘existential challenges’ to agriculture

The warming climate means we should expect more floods, more droughts and a decline in some important crop nutrients, but good soil management practices may mitigate some of the worst effects.

So said two scientists at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s final Ag Tech Professional Forum for 2019, capping a year of forums examining how climate change affects agriculture.

Robert Beach, Ph.D., senior economist and fellow at RTI International, discussed research that shows a decline in levels of zinc, iron, and protein in many food crops due to increased CO2 levels.

Rising CO2 levels may slow or reverse nutritional gains across all regions, but the effect is worse in many developing countries in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Beach noted that two billion people are already deficient in one or more of these nutrients. Falling levels of protein in rice, he added, have resulted in “major implications for food security.”

In addition, rising CO2 levels affect both the quality and quantity of food, although there are wide variations across geographies, crop types and climate models.

Beach did offer some hope that increasingly sophisticated agricultural practices may mitigate some of the effects of climate change.

Read the full story here: https://www.wraltechwire.com/2019/12/16/warming-climate-brings-existential-challenges-to-agriculture/

No-Till Cropping System Reaches Milestone in Wettest Year

“NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), PIERRE, S.D., December 11, 2019 – In the wettest year on record for South Dakota, half the cropland in the state that was planted used a cropping system without tillage. That system, no-till farming, has been the predominant cropping system on South Dakota cropland in recent years, but this is the first year the practice was used to plant 50 percent of the state’s crops.

““It’s a milestone for farmers in this state. The incredibly wet weather we had the previous fall and in the spring of 2019 complicated planting for most farmers, and may have contributed to them meeting that milestone,” Jeff Zimprich, State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) told an audience at the Ag Horizons Conference in Pierre.

“The NRCS has tracked tillage systems and no-till for 37 years to help measure progress in the use of soil saving and soil building farming systems. “This highest ever percentage of no-till may be because one heavy rainfall after another during the spring planting season left only a very narrow window for planting, and the more stable soil structure that’s developed with no-till systems and cover crops allowed no-till producers to plant fields that were not overwhelmingly saturated during that narrow window,” Zimprich said. “Or it may be there’s more interest in no-till and healthy soils. In either case, more no-till systems and cover crops are a bonus to producers and all of us who live in South Dakota, because healthier soils and cleaner water are benefits we can all enjoy.””

Read the full story here: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/sd/newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd1517222

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter December, 2019

ESMC News
Update from the Executive Director 

In this holiday season, the ESMC team would like to thank our members, collaborators and stakeholders for their contributions and efforts as partners in establishing the premier U.S. full service ag-based ecosystem services market. Farmers and ranchers are the foundation of this program; we rely on ag producers for food, feed, fuel and fiber, as well as for natural resource conservation and preservation of healthy ecosystems. Building the tools and opportunities to enable farmers and ranchers to continue to meet these needs, to be paid a fair share, and to show measured progress is the aim of ESMC and ESMRC, our research effort. Working with producers and the full food and beverage and agriculture value chain is exciting and rewarding and will help us scale outcomes in a measured and certified program that meets the needs of everyone. We are grateful for your continued support and extend our warm wishes and heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to work with you!

Thank you to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) for hosting our second in-person member meeting at AFBF Washington, DC, headquarters on 14-15 November. The meeting brought together ESMC members operating under the ESM Research Consortium (ESMRC). ESMRC is made possible through a $10.3M grant award from our partners at the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), which was announced last week with FFAR and ESMC/ESMRC members during the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you to all members who participated in the event and voiced continued support for this important work! We are collectively working together to raise and match FFAR’s award with $10.3M in cash and in-kind contributions to help invest in R&D to support a fully-functioning ecosystem services market for U.S. farmers and ranchers. To date we’ve raised just under $3M in match, and we would like to thank everyone for their generous contributions!

Thank you also to our members for the robust discussion during our November meeting, which helped to refine the value propositions and key services and linkages needed to remove risk from a full-service market while ensuring rigor, cost-effectiveness, and transparently quantified and monetized outcomes. Addressing technical, scientific, and sociocultural aspects of the program while also further developing the programmatic infrastructure needed for a functioning market at scale takes time and deliberation, and the discussions were constructive, informative, and helped to elaborate next steps.

We have begun planning for our February 12-13 meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, to be hosted by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) during their annual meeting. Thank you to NACD for your support and for hosting!

Also during this period we have been focused on continued elaboration of working group efforts; development of protocols for additional U.S. regions and production systems (the Midwest and Northern and Western plains regions and production systems); alignment of pilot project efforts for 2020 and beyond; and evaluation and assessment of the Southern Great Plains pilot project. Our team has participated in many informative and constructive conferences and events that collectively show great progress and promise for supporting ecosystem service markets development, whether to address climate mitigation and adaptation or to achieve improved natural resource outcomes. ESMC’s timing is serendipitous in that it coincides with a wave of scientific evidence about natural carbon sinks playing a key role in climate mitigation and about the ancillary benefits of soil carbon and working land enhancements in meeting societal needs. Additionally, ag tech is exploding, and will continue to play a key role and provide beneficial lift in our free-market approach.

Happy holidays, and best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and successful new year!

– Debbie Reed and the ESMC Team


FFAR Awards $10.3 Million to ESMC   

In a lead up to the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) jointly announced on November 19 the award of $10.3 million from FFAR to establish the research component of ESMC that supports the development of a national environmental credit marketplace. ESMC and its members will match the grant over three years to fund research and development projects in this public-private partnership for a total investment of $20.6 million. Continue reading the full news release here.


ESMC Launches New Facebook Page

ESMC is pleased to announce the launch of its new Facebook page. This will serve as an interactive platform where current members, potential members and the general public can stay up to date on ESMC news and learn more about ESMC. You can find the page by searching the handle @EcosystemServicesMarketConsortium on Facebook, or viewing the page directly here.


ESMC Submits Comments to House Select Committee on Climate Change

ESMC submitted comments to the House Select Committee on Climate Change regarding the importance of market-based solutions such as those being developed by ESMC to address climate change.


ESMC Member News
ESMC Members on Panel at Upcoming Soils Event

ESMC member organizations, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), are on the program for the “Healthy Soils for a Healthier Planet” event being conducted by Resources for the Future next Tuesday, December 17, in Washington, DC. Maria Bowman of SHP and Sally Flis of TFI are two of several panel experts sharing perspectives on how practice, technologies and policies related to soil health are evolving. Find further details, including registration and livestreaming information, here.


Cargill Expands Climate Change Commitments; Reinforces Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement Goals

Last week, ESMC Founding Circle member Cargill announced its commitment to reduce supply chain emissions by 30% by 2030. ESMC was cited among other initiatives and activities to support Cargill’s focus on supply chain interventions to benefit farmers. The full announcement may be read here. As noted in the article, Cargill has also signed on to the We are Still In Coalition to indicate continued support for the Paris Climate Accord. Other EMSC Founding Circle members who are signatories include Danone North America, McDonald’s, and Nestle USA, along with Legacy Partner, Mars Inc.


Other News of Note
New Project to Measure Carbon Sequestration Levels in Grasslands

The Western Producer (November 28, 2019) – Grassland guardians may finally get their wish to be paid for the environmental services they provide. Land trust agencies, a carbon project developer, ranchers, the eco goods and service development company Viresco Solutions Inc. and Shell Canada are developing a pilot program to measure how much carbon is sequestered and then calculate payments. Continue reading the full article here.


Greenhouse Gases Accelerate to New Peak in 2018, U.N. says
Reuters (November 25) – Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2018, exceeding the average yearly increase of the last decade and reinforcing increasingly damaging weather patterns, the World Meteorological Organization (WM)) said on Monday. Continue reading the full article here.


Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide Emissions Have ‘Increased Substantially’ in the Past Decade, Study Finds
ABC Science (November 18, 2019) – Emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide – are going up faster than we thought. It’s countries in east Asia and South America that are making the biggest contribution to the increasing emissions, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Continue reading the full article here.

Advancing Soil Health Through the Power of Partnerships

On this World Soil Day, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Soil Health Institute (SHI) are celebrating critical milestones in soil health research and education. During the past two years, SHI, SHP and TNC have developed a strong partnership, each bringing unique expertise to the table and leveraging one another’s strengths to promote positive change on U.S. farms.

Today, we review the progress we’ve made so far: https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/provide-food-and-water-sustainably/food-and-water-stories/advancing-soil-health-through-partnerships/

Soil is not only one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, it also produces 95 percent of our food, filters our drinking water and reduces the impact of climate change through carbon storage. © David Ike

Farmers learn the science of soil health at Clemson conference

Healthy crops begin with healthy soil and researchers with the Clemson University’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program are teaching farmers how they can benefit from keeping their soils fit.

The researchers teamed up with other agricultural professionals and farmers who have implemented soil health principles by using cover crops, no till and livestock integration to hold a conference to teach about soil health and tools to use to promote healthy soil.

“Soil is one of the most precious resources we have,” said Geoff Zehnder, Clemson SARE coordinator and co-organizer. “We depend on soil for our livelihoods and we must learn how to keep soil healthy so that it will continue to work for us.”

Read the full story here: https://newsstand.clemson.edu/farmers-learn-the-science-of-soil-health-at-clemson-conference/

Cargill expands climate change commitments

“With a global footprint and presence in major food and ag supply chains around the globe, Cargill is committed to protecting the earth’s vital natural resources and reducing its environmental impact. In alignment with its climate commitment, Cargill has adopted a Scope 3 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per ton of product by 2030.”

This goal aligns with many of Cargill’s customers, who are driving toward similar climate goals. Cargill has also reinforced its intent to prioritize climate through three recent activities aligned with companies around the globe, including pledging to the CEO climate statement, signing on to the We Are Still In coalition to continue supporting the Paris Climate Accord and convening at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid.”

Read the full story here: https://www.cargill.com/2019/cargill-expands-climate-change-commitments

FFAR Awards $10.3 Million to Support Ecosystem Services Markets for Farmers and Ranchers

“In a lead up to the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) jointly announced on November 19 the award of $10.3 million from FFAR to establish the research component of ESMC that supports the development of a national environmental credit marketplace. ESMC and its members will match the grant over three years to fund research and development projects in this public-private partnership for a total investment of $20.6 million.

“FFAR-funded research will better quantify, monitor and verify the environmental impacts of agricultural producers’ conservation efforts to recognize and pay them through an ecosystem services marketplace. The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC), the research arm of the ESMC, will develop tools and technologies to assure the validity of the credits cost-effectively, and at-scale.”

Read the full story here: https://ecosystemservicesmarket.org/2019/11/19/ffar-awards-10-3-million-to-support-ecosystem-services-markets-for-farmers-and-ranchers/

Fall Newsletter

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) has released its Fall Soil Health News, showcasing forward momentum on soil health measurements and education. The issue shares highlights from SHI’s 4th Annual Meeting, including an inaugural PED Talk by SHI scientist Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi. PED Talks are a new series of 10- to 15-minute science-centered soil health educational videos that are a collaborative effort of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), Soil Health Partnership (SHP), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and SHI. Links to the conference report, conference videos and to Dr. Cappellazzi’s PED Talk are provided.

The newsletter’s articles include:

  • Why Measurement Matters: Investing in Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture;
  • Genomics Study: 16S rRNA, ITS Amplicon Analyses Underway; Shotgun Metagenomics on Deck;
  • Field Days Kick Off Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton Project;
  • Looking back on the most significant soil health grant in history: FFAR Shows Commitment to Soil Health.

SHI also announces three new associates.

Read the newsletter here.