Category Archives: Partners’ News

ESMC November Newsletter

Executive Director Update

The sheer volume of recent activity that impacts ESMC’s work and that of our members and stakeholders seems to increase every month. Political change aside (for the moment), we’ve seen more and more companies and sectors in and outside the food and beverage sector taking on new goals and commitments to become more sustainable, including pledges to be net zero emitters of carbon and GHG by certain dates. Goal setting and reporting commitments are fantastic to see; they signal that the private sector is continuing to step up to address not just climate change, but associated natural resource and ecological impacts, including water resource constraints, biodiversity impacts, and related concerns that are critical to human and planetary health and food security. Concerns that the global COVID pandemic might reduce commitments or reduce resolve are calmed by the doubling-down of corporate actors that are evident in headlines everywhere, every day.

Valid concerns that society and consumers need to have transparency and clarity into the true impacts of these commitments and endeavors are also increasing. ESMC’s industry-wide approach ensures that sustainability and climate change mitigation activities in the agricultural sector are appropriately and rigorously quantified, verified, and certified by independent authorities. ESMC’s mission of scaling beneficial impacts that benefit society is centered in a voluntary, private market that meets multiple demand-side and buyer needs, while paying the farmers and ranchers whose actions create the impacts. Our program ensures that corporate actors in the agricultural supply chain and value chain need not make these investments individually; and that farmers and ranchers have the necessary tools and opportunities to participate without unduly burdening them. To de-risk these markets, we are ensuring that all market actors have the necessary tools to participate and are testing the entire program with all of them.

ESMC’s programmatic investments in technologically advanced protocols, tools, technologies and a monitoring, reporting, and verification platform have and will continue to establish a credible, durable system that meets market standards, buyer and investor needs, and can track and reward the impacts appropriately. The importance of having a robust and national scale infrastructure that ensures transparent, rigorous outcomes-based, certified tracking of impacts from agriculture cannot be overstated. We need change now, but the changes and the tracking must be durable, and the system must adapt to changing science, technology, and market standards. That flexibility of design is an underpinning of our approach. Where we will be in 5 years is not where we are now.

Recent political changes promise to bring additional opportunities to this space, and ESMC looks forward to engaging as these changes are further discussed and shaped. Additional support to the significant investments the private sector has made in this space, as well as to the public and private investments that ESMC and our members have collectively made is always welcomed, particularly in a manner that does not undermine or erode private voluntary markets which have the potential to scale ecological outcomes alongside traditional conservation programs. Both are necessary, and both must continue to scale impact and outcomes with necessary speed.

Thanks again to our members, stakeholders, collaborators, funders, and supporters for all the work that you do. We are honored to work with you, alongside you, and for you in what continues to be an inspiring and rewarding journey.

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ESMC October 2020

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 “Noble 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.

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ESMC September News

ESMC Holds an Event at Climate Week NYC
ESMC, ADM, the Illinois Corn Growers Association, GROWMARK, and a farmer from Illinois held an event at Climate Week NYC on September 25. The webinar focused on farmer economics and climate smart agriculture, and featured supply chain partners who discussed an ESMC pilot project on 10,000 corn and soy acres in Illinois. View the recording here (password is EBJ?0@jB).

Participation in National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) “Cattlemen to Cattlemen” Program
On September 22, ESMC’s Cassie Aherin participated in a televised panel discussion on how beef producers and corn growers are working closely together to build the sustainability of both enterprises. Brandon Hunnicutt, a board member of ESMC Legacy Partner National Corn Growers Association, and member of ESMC’s Producer Circle, joined Cassie in the discussion. View the discussion here.

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New Digital Tool Provides Scientific Data and Curated Insights on Conservation Farming Practices

Our partners at TNC have developed a data visualization tool to convey the on-farm and environmental effects of conservation practices as documented in the literature.

Scientists from conservation and academic institutions have launched AgEvidence, a visualization dashboard of data from nearly 300 peer-reviewed research papers and curated expert insights derived from those studies. The research compiled in AgEvidence focuses on the environmental and agronomic impacts of cover crops, tillage management, pest management, and nutrient management practices used in growing corn and/or soybean crops in the Midwest.

AgEvidence was created by Lesley Atwood, Ph.D., and Stephen Wood, Ph.D., as part of the Managing Soil Carbon working group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership. SNAPP is a partnership of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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General Mills Partnership with Gunsmoke Farms

General Mills today announced Gunsmoke Farms has received organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organics Program. Gunsmoke, a 34,000-acre farm outside of Pierre, South Dakota, had been managed conventionally for more than three decades before its transition to organic over the last three years using regenerative agriculture practices. The combination of cover crops, a diverse crop rotation, keeping a living root in the ground year round and minimizing tillage were instrumental in restoring the land to a holistic farming system that now grows spring wheat, winter wheat, alfalfa, oats, peas and Kernza.

“General Mills has been on our soil health journey since 2016 and working with Gunsmoke Farms solidified our belief that regenerative agriculture can be a transformative lever for farmers to be a part of the climate solution,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer for General Mills. “This type of long-term, direct contracting is unprecedented for General Mills and the industry. If we truly aim to be a force for good, our role is to give farmers the tools to be more resilient – both environmentally and financially.”

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Cargill to Advance Regenerative Agriculture Practices Across 10 million Acres by 2030

Cargill has announced it is supporting farmer-led efforts to adopt regenerative agriculture practices and systems across 10 million acres of North American farmland over the next 10 years.

The initiative will focus primarily on row-crop rotations that include corn, wheat, canola, soybeans, and other staple crops.

Cargill expects these regenerative agriculture practices to benefit the long-term profitability and resiliency of farmers while simultaneously advancing the company’s progress against its science-based climate commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its global supply chains by 30% per ton of product by 2030. The initiative will also contribute to Cargill’s efforts to protect and enhance water resources.

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General Mills says consumers drive regenerative ag focus

Large corporations are focusing on regenerative agriculture because consumers think they should, according to Jay Watson from General Mills.

He told the Soil Health Institute virtual conference in late July that research from the Washington-based Hartman Group has shown this to be the case.

Consumers were asked who bears responsibility for making the world more sustainable.

“Consumers are shifting this responsibility to large companies from governments,” said Watson. “Some consumers see large food companies, and large companies in general, being part of the challenge or problem, so they’re pushing us to be part of the solution.”

Watson leads the company’s sustainability and regenerative agriculture efforts. General Mills has made several commitments toward sustainability in the last few years, including sourcing sustainable ingredients. Watson said it became apparent that there was work to be done upstream, at the farm level, as the company examined its own efforts.

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Wrangler Seeks Committed Farmers

Wrangler®, a global icon in jeanswear and casual apparel, today announced plans for a new jean that celebrates the benefits of regeneratively grown cotton. Global cotton farmers who can demonstrate and document soil-carbon and biodiversity improvements are invited to apply for their cotton to be purchased for a Wrangler Retro® Premium submission as part of The Jeans Redesign project from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF).

The Jeans Redesign sees over 50 brands embrace the principles of circular economy to ensure positive impacts for the environment, society and the health of those working in its industry. The guidelines, as set out by over 40 denim experts alongside the Foundation, establishes the minimum requirements for the durability, material health, recyclability and traceability of denim jeans. As defined by the EMF, one of the key principles of circular economy is the regeneration of natural systems. The principle aligns with Wrangler’s aim to source 100 percent sustainably grown cotton by 2025.

“A circular economy is symbiotic with regenerative agricultural practices,” said Roian Atwood, Senior Director, Global Sustainable Business at Wrangler. “Wrangler is amplifying our commitment with this call to action as we work with farmers to rapidly scale the supply of sustainably-grown cotton. For this project, we’re looking for the best of the best.”

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ESMC Newsletter, September 2020

Senate Democrats’ Climate Committee Releases New Report on Climate Action, Plan To Build Clean Economy For American People
On Tuesday, August 25, US Senate Democrats unveiled a report proposing a broad approach to fighting climate change. The Committee’s report calls on Congress to: reduce U.S. emissions rapidly to achieve 100 percent global net-zero emissions no later than 2050; stimulate economic growth by increasing federal spending on climate action to at least 2 percent of GDP annually — and ensure that at least 40 percent of the benefits from these investments help communities of color and low-income, de-industrialized, and disadvantaged communities; and create at least 10 million new jobs. The document emerged from a year of hearings and private meetings with Democratic allies and is a menu of potential policies that have wide support in the party and that could be combined in future legislation. Read a plan overview in the Atlantic here.

ESMC publicly supported the report’s release with the following statement from ESMC’s Executive Director, Debbie Reed: “ESMC and our corporate partners, agricultural organizations, and members across the agricultural supply chain and value chain laud the Senate Democrats Special Committee on the Climate Crisis for recognizing the impact of climate change on agriculture, a business conducted largely outdoors. We also greatly appreciate the Committee engaging in consultations and dialog to arrive at approaches in which the voices of farmers and ranchers and the food and beverage sector can be elevated. Private, voluntary carbon and ecosystem services markets that pay farmers and ranchers to sequester carbon, reduce other GHG emissions, and improve water quality and water use – which all go hand-in-hand – will help recognize and compensate producers for benefits consumers and society need and are demanding. These actions also improve agricultural resilience to dangerous climate impacts – so it is a win-win.”

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Cargill works to positively impact communities where employees live and work

Across Cargill’s locations in 70 countries, the company and its employees are committed to positively impacting the communities where they live and work. This year, with a pandemic and natural disasters globally, Cargill intensified its focus on boosting economies, improving livelihoods and making a difference to individuals, families, farmers and small businesses around the world.

In the fiscal year 2020, Cargill provided $115 million in total charitable contributions, hosted trainings for 860,000 farmers in sustainable agricultural and business practices to improve their earnings potential and provided more than 39 million meals to global and local food bank partners.

“As the world faces extraordinary challenges – from climate change to food insecurity – delivering on Cargill’s purpose to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way is more critical than ever before,” said Michelle Grogg, vice president of corporate responsibility at Cargill. “We collaborate with strategic partners across the globe to bring this purpose to life by empowering farmers, protecting the planet and nourishing people and communities.”

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