Category Archives: Partners’ News

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.

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter December, 2019

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.

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:

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter November, 2019

ESMRC Working Group Leaders, Members, Science Advisors Announced
As announced in the October newsletter, the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) Working Groups will enhance the scientific underpinnings for the voluntary ecosystems services market that ESMC will launch in 2022. The ESMRC is the research arm of the ESMC, and its four working groups are tasked with overseeing and guiding research, development, demonstration and deployment needs to increase rigor and reduce costs for the fully functioning science-based, standards-based, and outcomes-based ESMC marketplace for agriculture. Working group Co-Leads, Members and Science Advisors are as follows:

Working Group 1: Quantification of Soil C and Net GHG in Protocols, Pilots and Certification – Co-leads: Ryan Sirolli of Cargill and Chris Adamo of Danone North America. Members: Ashley Allen, Mars, Inc.; Maria Bowman, Soil Health Partnership; Jamie Burr, Tyson Foods; Mike Crist, Tatanka Resources; Paul Duncan, Anuvia Plant Nutrients; Sara Fox, Nutrien; Jaff Hanratty/Steve Rosenzweig, General Mills; Tom Stoddard, Native Energy; and Stephen Wood, The Nature Conservancy. Science Advisors: Mark Ritchie, Syracuse University; Stephen Del Grosso, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Mariko Thorbecke, Quantis.

Working Group 2: Quantification of Water Quality and Water Quantity in Protocols, Pilots and Certification – Co-leads: Kris Johnson of The Nature Conservancy and Alex Echols of the Campbell Foundation. Members: Keira Havens, Pivot Bio; Michelle Perez, American Farmland Trust; Heidi Peterson, Sand County Foundation; and Truke Smoor, Cargill. Science advisors: Peter Kyveryga, Iowa Soybean Association; Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute and Paul Reig, World Resources Institute.

Working Group 3: Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) Technologies; MRV Platform; and Gridded Land Ledger – Co-leads: Jason Weller of Land O’Lakes and Mike Komp of the Conservation Technology Information Center. Members: Ben Brown, Arva Intelligence; Chad Ellis, Noble Research Institute; Allison Grantham, Grow Well Consulting; Kristen McKnight, NativeEnergy; and Rachel Orf, National Corn Growers Association. Science Advisors: Daniel Northrup, Benson Hill; William Fox III, Texas A&M and Jia Deng, University of New Hampshire.

Working Group 4: Soil Carbon Research to Quantify and Achieve Ecosystem Service Capacities of Soils – Co-leads: Hannah Birgé of The Nature Conservancy and Cristine Morgan of the Soil Health Institute. Members: Dan Froehlich, Anuvia Plant Nutrients; Jacob Penner, NativeEnergy; and Catherine Steward, USDA Agricultural Research Service. Science advisors: Jen Moore-Kucera, American Farmland Trust; Ron Turco, Purdue University and Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Iowa State University.

ESMC Members Gather for Second Meeting in Washington, DC, this Week 
The second convening of the ESMC members occurs Thursday and Friday, November 14 and 15, in Washington, DC. Representatives from our more than 40 member organizations across the agricultural supply chain and value chain will continue to align on high priority needs to establish the fully functioning ESMC market by 2022. Members will review existing ESMC Protocols and discuss plans to further refine protocols. Pilot project planning and implementation will also be discussed. Working Group Co-leads will report on progress and next steps in their plans and activities.

Welcome New Members 
ESMC is pleased to announce six new members to the Consortium! Syngenta has joined as a new Founding Circle member along with five new Legacy Partner members, including: Almond Board of California; Arizona State University; Arva Intelligence; Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture; and Open Team. With these additions, ESMC numbers 41 members – 15 Founding Circle members and 25 Legacy Partners – Thank you to all our members and collaborators for joining in our public-private stakeholder driven project!

ESMC Joins Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture 
ESMC is excited to be a new member of Field to Market and looking forward to continued opportunities for engagement and collaboration as a member of the Civil Society Sector.

ESMC Spotlighted in the Financial Times
In a Special Report “Food Sustainability,” an article in the London-based Financial Times identified the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) as an advocate for a market-based approach to sustainable farming and highlights our work as a U.S. coalition to develop an Ecosystem Services Market due to launch in 2022. Read the article, Food production that does not cost the earth: Market-based tools to make an environmental supply chain financially viable, by Sarah Murray, Financial Times (September 25, 2109), here. It is through the strength of our coalition and the efforts of all ESMC members that the market will succeed.

ESMC Member News

American Farmland Trust and Danone North America Testify at House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis
Two ESMC member organizations testified at an October 30 hearing held by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on the topic of “Solving the Climate Crisis: Opportunities in Agriculture.” Jennifer Moore-Kucera of American Farmland Trust and Tina Owns of Danone North America were two of four speakers at the hearing providing testimony. View the full hearing or read the opening statement and full testimonies here.

ESMC and ESMC Member Speak at U.S. EPA Listening Session 
ESMC team member Bruce Knight and Steve Rowe of ESMC member company, Newtrient, presented oral comments at the U.S. EPA “Water Quality Trading under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System” Listening Session in Washington, DC on October 21. Knight spoke about the ESMC effort and expressed appreciation for EPA’s policy advancements to support trading mechanisms for water quality.

ESMC Members collaborate to Launch PED Talks Video Series
Do you know what a PED is? ESMC members including the Conservation Technology Information Center, Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership, the Soil Science Society of America (of the Tri-Societies), and USDA NRCS have collaborated with the Soil and Water Conservation Society to launch a series of PED Talks on soil health. Soil peds are aggregated particles of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. PED talks combine various soil-related topics to explain and highlight progress on ensuring healthy soils in the future. Read more here. Visit the PED Talks channel on YouTube here.

Look for ESMC at . . . 
November 13 is the date of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) “Dialogue on Agricultural Data Ownership and Maximizing Value” in San Antonio. Caroline Wade of the ESMC team will be making remarks at this event focused on addressing challenges and opportunities related to data ownership and the advancement of policies and practices that address needs of all stakeholders.

Field to Market 
November 19 – Stay tuned for an ESMC award announcement during lunch at the Field to Market Meeting in Indianapolis! Don’t miss it!

2019 Sustainable Agriculture Summit
November 20–21 – ESMC team members, Bruce Knight and Debbie Reed, will be participating in the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis. Over 500 food and agriculture supply chain leaders, including many ESMC members and partners, will gather for this year’s meeting to explore key drivers in defining and advancing sustainability across the industry. Debbie Reed will serve on the panel, Driving for Economic and Environmental Benefits through Climate Smart Agriculture, on November 20th.

Northeast Region Agribusiness & CCA Conference
December 3 – 5 at the Northeast Region Agribusiness & CCA Conference in Syracuse, New York.  ESMC team member, Tom Driscoll, will speak on the opening panel, Emerging Topics in Agriculture – Challenges Ahead. In his presentation, “Creating a Market for Stewardship,” he will speak about opportunities for farmers and CCAs to participate in the ESMC.

Other News of Note 

Ceres Report Calls for Major Food Companies to Use Water More Efficiently
Ceres recently released the third edition of Feeding Ourselves Thirsty. While highlighting improved scores in water management practice of major food companies, it also calls for companies to adopt far stronger practices to reduce their demands and impacts on limited water resources, calling corporate action insufficient in an increasingly water-stressed world. Read more here. The full report and executive summary may be downloaded here.

Dual Role of Deep Soils in Global Carbon Cycle
A new study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that deep soils both sequester and release carbon. The study explores the impacts of environmental changes on deep soil carbon and the role of deep roots as a weathering agent that breaks rocks and minerals, resulting in both the potential for increased carbon storage at depth but also release of stored carbon from minerals. Researchers point out that “findings will have global ramifications for agricultural stakeholders that have held up the benefits of carbon sequestration in soils as their contribution to fighting climate change.” Read more here about this study that was published in October in Science Direct Journal.

Nominations open for ESMRC Science Advisors

The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) seeks nominations to form an inaugural team of science advisors to participate in ESMRC Working Groups. ESMRC Working Groups will provide expert insight and advice on the ESMRC research and demonstration agenda and activities to develop advanced ecosystem services markets for agriculture.

The submission deadline for nominations of working group science advisors is Friday 13 September 2019. Please click here to access the ESMRC Call for Nominations For Working Group Science Advisors; an ESMRC Working Group Science Advisor Nomination Form; a Bio-sketch form; and additional information on ESMRC Working Groups.

Remote Sensing Technology Drives Conservation Solutions

Today marks the first release of regional-scale data from the Operational Tillage Information System (OpTIS), a new tool that has the potential to unlock conservation solutions for a variety of food and agricultural supply chain stakeholders. These data document the level of adoption of soil health practices for Illinois, Indiana  and Iowa from 2005 to 2018. By the end of July, the same data will be available for the entire Corn Belt—an area extending from eastern Ohio to eastern Kansas and Nebraska, and from the Missouri Bootheel to the Red River Valley of North Dakota.

OpTIS, developed by Applied GeoSolutions (AGS), analyzes remotely sensed images of the landscape, automatically identifying and quantifying the proportion of cropland that is managed with various types of conservation tillage practices and winter cover crops each year. AGS, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have spearheaded the development, testing and application of OpTIS.

“In the past, we have relied on data from cost share programs to measure conservation practice adoption, but we know most farmers implement conservation practices on their own,” said Ben Gleason, sustainable program manager, Iowa Corn Growers Association. “Utilizing remote sensing technology that is ground-truthed allows us to see the entire picture of conservation practice adoption, and the results show that we are making progress.”

Read the Full Story Here:

Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan

Regenerative Design Group has been awarded a contract to lead a robust planning process for protecting and enhancing all soils across Massachusetts. The Project Team includes Linnean Solutions, a Cambridge, MA-based firm that helps communities and organizations reach sustainability and resilience goals; Eric Toensmeier, carbon farming expert and contributor to Project Drawdown; Caro Roszell, Soil Carbon Program Manager at NOFA/Mass; and Marty Dagoberto, Policy Director at NOFA/Mass, and contributor to the proposed MA Healthy Soils Program now being considered by the legislature.

Expanding Support for Healthy Soils

This project was initiated by The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water, & Related Resources. Over the past decade, several states have taken on healthy soils initiatives, mostly focused on agricultural lands. This project will learn from those initiatives, and expand the scope to include all land uses in Massachusetts.

Read the full story here:

FFAR Partners with FoodShot Global to Award 3 GroundBreaker Prizes

From the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research:

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON (June 6, 2019) – Soil health research is critical to preserving the environment and increasing farmer yields and profitability. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and FoodShot Global awarded GroundBreaker Prizes to three individuals conducting trailblazing research that improves soil health and enhances soil management practices. FFAR contributed $110,000, which was matched by partner organizations for a total prize award of $535,000.

This year’s inaugural Foodshot Global Challenge, Innovating Soil 3.0, recognizes rising scientific stars whose research supports a soil system capable of supporting ten billion people. Foodshot Global winners have identified technological and ecological tools that enable farmers to optimize yields and the long-term health of the land. Through this prize, all three recipients receive guidance, mentorship and resources to maximize the impact and scale of their research.

“Soil health is at the root of an agricultural system capable of supporting a growing global population,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “This type of innovative research is needed to revolutionize global soil health. FFAR is proud to be part of this competition and to support this year’s winners.”

The GroundBreaker Prize was awarded to Dr. Keith Paustian, Dr. Gerlinde de Devn and Dr. Dorn Cox:

Dr. Paustian received a $250,000 GroundBreaker Prize to accelerate the global adaptation of his COMET-Farm tool systems. This specialized technology provides sustainability metrics that inform land management decisions and promote regenerative and conservation-based agricultural practices. These tools are increasingly used in the United States at the federal level to support conservation programs, at the state level to support soil health and carbon management policies, and by industry partners. Dr. Paustian aims to adapt the COMET systems to agricultural regions around the globe.

Dr. Gerlinde de Devn received a $250,000 GroundBreaker Prize to determine soil components that enhance plant productivity, allow for better absorption of nutrients, suppress disease and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. de Devn’s research develops models that predict how plants engage with their environments, allowing researchers to efficiently produce nutritious food without stressing the environment.

Dr. Dorn Cox was also awarded a $35,000 GroundBreaker “Seed” Prize to support his ambitious vision of using Open TEAM to collect environmental data, providing access to comprehensive global agricultural knowledge to help growers make sustainable and profitable farm management decisions. Open TEAM, a technology ecosystem that leverages existing global open-source hardware and software, is in the development phase and aims to advance soil health through community learning and aggregating best agricultural practices. The GroundBreaker Prize will increase the capacity of Open TEAM by incorporating on-the-ground technology support and extending outreach to other open source communities around the world.

“I founded FoodShot Global envisioning a new way to harness the power of innovation, capital, and the collaborative spirit of the world’s leading stakeholders to effect change,” said Chairman and Founder of FoodShot Global Victor Friedberg. “We chose to start with soil because any future that imagines 10 billion people eating healthy and sustainably with equal access will require healthy soil. The three people we announced today are all groundbreakers whose inspired work lays the foundation for the next generation of solutions to the urgency we now face as a civilization. I couldn’t be more impressed and inspired by these inaugural FoodShot Global award winners and look forward to sharing what they’re doing with a larger audience.”

FoodShot Global received 176 GroundBreaker Prize nominations from six continents and over 40 countries. These winners were judged by investors based on core criteria including their alignment with FoodShot Global’s mission of creating a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable food system; their connection to the Innovating Soil 3.0 challenge, the global relevance of their work, their ability to realize growth and scale, and their likelihood of facilitating future innovation and systemic change.

FFAR Awards Grant to Enhance Soil Practices in Almond Orchards

“More than 80 percent of the world’s almonds are produced in California, and this industry contributes $21 billion to the state’s economy. In recognition of the need to develop more resilient almond orchards, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $225,000 Seeding Solutions Grant to the University of California, Davis, to improve soil health in almond orchards. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from the Almond Board of California and almond growers for a total $450,000 investment.

“Currently, almond growers clean the orchard floor so that no weeds, manures or organic matter are left before harvest begins. Almond harvesters then shake the trees to encourage the almond fruit to fall to the ground, where it dries out before growers transfer the fruit in its hull and shell to processing facilities. Since the almonds touch the ground during harvest, growers are not able to use manures, composts or other materials added to the soil that would contaminate the nuts.”

Read the full article here:

Noble Research Institute Appoints Rhines as President and Chief Executive Officer

Steven Rhines, President & CEO

ARDMORE, Okla. — Noble Research Institute’s governing body announced today the selection of Steven Rhines as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. The governing body voted unanimously to select Rhines at last week’s regular January meeting.

Rhines has been with Noble for almost two decades, most recently serving as its vice president, general counsel and director of public affairs.

“We conducted a nationwide search for a proven leader who possessed a significant understanding of agricultural research, the vision to advance the Noble Research Institute into the next generation, and high personal integrity,” said Rusty Noble, chairman of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Board of Directors and grandson of the organization’s founder, Lloyd Noble. “We found all of those qualities in Steve. He has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to successfully lead critical initiatives, and he has a great passion for agriculture and Oklahoma. We look forward to him leading Noble for many years to come.”

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is the sole member/manager of Noble Research Institute, a nonprofit single-member limited liability company. The Foundation acts through its board of directors to provide leadership for the Institute to carry out its charitable purposes, act as a good steward of its resources, and conduct and support its activities in accordance with the vision of founder Lloyd Noble.

Rhines becomes the ninth president in Noble’s 74-year history. He replaces Bill Buckner, who retired after seven years at the end of 2018. “I’m humbled and honored to be chosen to steward the Noble legacy,” Rhines said. “I am thankful for this opportunity, and I am excited to work alongside a talented and dedicated group of researchers, educators, consultants and staff.”

Rhines, a native of Antlers, Oklahoma, earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1990 and a Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University in 1994. Rhines joined Noble from the international law firm of Sidley Austin in 2001.

Rhines has led the legal function of the nonprofit since 2001. Additionally, he has been responsible for overseeing numerous operational activities during his tenure, including extramural funding, communications, government and public affairs, and most recently, youth and adult education.

In 2008, Rhines headed the organization’s effort to modify the U.S. Tax Code to create a new type of 501(c)(3) public charity called agricultural research organizations (AROs). The proposed modification would increase agricultural research capacity in the United States and provide philanthropists another option to invest in public agricultural research. The legislative measure became law in December 2015.

The Noble Research Institute is in the process of converting from a private foundation to an ARO. “The development of AROs was almost a seven-year journey, and Steve led the entire effort,” Noble said. “The project is but one example of his demonstrated vision, critical thinking and tenacity. He cares about Noble and its mission, and he cares for the development of the people he works with and leads. These qualities made him the clear choice for the Institute’s future.”

Rhines begins his tenure as the Institute’s president today. Rusty Noble, on behalf of the governing body, made the announcement to employees during a special gathering on the Institute campus.

“I fell in love with the organization the first day I walked onto this campus and heard the story of Lloyd Noble,” Rhines said. “Our focus is land stewardship in livestock production for producer profitability. We deliver guidance, education, solutions, and innovations to farmers and ranchers — regionally and nationally. Being a part of an organization with a committed governing body, leadership team and employees is a foundation for success. It is the greatest job anyone could have.”

In addition to other community activities and service, Rhines serves as a governor-appointed member of both the Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics Board of Trustees and the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development Board.

Rhines and his wife, Debbie, live in Ardmore. They have three sons currently attending college: Andrew, Thomas and Grant.