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.