Ecosystem Services Market Consortium Monthly Newsletter March, 2020

Third Official ESMC Pilot Project Launched with The Fertilizer Institute 
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) recently announced plans to test improved nutrient stewardship as a means of increasing farmer profitability through participation in ESMC’s market program. This pilot project will test the ESMC’s protocols and data intake procedures and other program aspects while TFI will identify potential buyers for the ecosystem service impact credits generated.

The Fertilizer Institute will work with farmers enrolled in their 4R Advocate Program in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota. TFI’s 4R Advocate Program links nutrient stewardship, including precision agriculture and variable rate application, to farm profitability and has collected production data, including fertilizer applications, from participating producers for four years.

4R Nutrient Stewardship principles incorporate the right source, right rate, right time, and right placement of fertilizer and are a proven framework that helps American farmers increase production and profitability while enhancing environmental protection and improving sustainability. Read more about this pilot project here.

The TFI Stewardship and Sustainability team is also seeking an intern to help with various aspects of the ESMC pilot project, such as taking soil samples, data entry and conducting farmer interviews, along with assisting with other TFI programs and events. More information may be found here. ESMC members and friends are asked to please share the announcement with students who may be interested.

ESMC is Hiring 
Current positions are open for a Research Director and a Project Manager for the Consortium. Positions will be open until filled. More information about ESMC is found here. Click on the following links to learn more about each position: Research Director and Project Manager.

ESMC Request for Proposals to be Released on March 23 
The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) Working Groups are focused on the research, development, demonstration and deployment of cost-effective, scalable technologies and approaches to launch an ecosystem services market. The Asset Quantification component of this work is led by Working Groups 1 and 2 who have been tasked with developing accurate, cost-effective and scalable quantification of agricultural management system impacts on soil C, net GHG (carbon, methane and nitrous oxide), water quality and water quantity. Both Working Group 1 (Carbon and GHG Assets) and Working Group 2 (Water Assets) will be releasing Request for Proposals (RFPs) next week with these goals in mind. Please check ESMC’s webpage on Monday, March 23rd,  for updates on the RFP requirements and process.

Working Group 1 Project 1: Advanced Quantification Technology Assessment
PROJECT SUMMARY: This RFP seeks to engage partners to identify, assess, test, and map the development of advanced tools and technologies that can more efficiently and cost effectively measure and quantify soil C changes and net GHG reductions to help ESMC generate soil carbon and reduced GHG assets. The work will include in-field testing of promising innovative tools and technologies in ESMC pilot projects.

Working Group 2 Project 1: Evaluation, improvement and scaling of water quality quantification approaches for water asset generation in ESMC’s Integrated Protocol
PROJECT SUMMARY: This RFP seeks to engage partners to design and implement testing and evaluation of the APEX water quality model and WQIAg tool approaches as part of ESMC’s Integrated Protocol for water quality credit generation in ESMC pilot projects. The work will cover ESMC’s 2020 pilot regions to demonstrate viable water asset generation, discover needed modeling improvements or adaptations, recommend Protocol refinements, while identifying opportunities to support model calibration, validation, expansion and automation.

ESMC Files Comments on NRCS Interim Rule on ACEP
ESMC filed comments with USDA’s NRCS on the interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to support the trading of credits on the easement programs offered by the agency. Comments may be found on the ESMC website here.

New Funding Award for ESMC 
ESMC is pleased to announce the recent award of $25,000 from The Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation to support policy work for the ESMC. ESMC welcomes the Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation to the Consortium, and we look forward to working together to benefit farmers and ranchers whose actions improve ecosystem services benefits for society.

Welcome New ESMC Members 
Welcome to the American Sugarbeet Growers Association and Farmobile as the two newest members of ESMC. Both organizations are joining ESMC as Legacy Partner members. ESMC now numbers 49 members – 15 Founding Circle members and 34 Legacy Partners. Who will become ESMC’s 50th member?!

Save the Date!  
ESMC members are asked to please keep May 11-12 on your calendars for the Spring Quarterly in-person meeting. In light of the current health crisis regarding COVID-19, we are continuing to monitor the situation and are investigating remote options for hosting and attendance at the meeting. The meeting venue is currently scheduled for Washington, DC, though it is unknown as of this writing what the final plan will be. However, we do know that the meeting will be held, and plans will be made to ensure safety for all and a productive and effective meeting. Keep safe, and we will continue to communicate regarding meeting plans as the situation continues to unfold.

Land O’Lakes Collaborates with SWCS on Grant Award
Congratulations to ESMC member Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, and its new sustainability solutions business, Truterra, on their collaboration with the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) resulting in the award of $1.5 million. Their joint proposal was selected as a recipient of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) for On-Farm Trials by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program goal is to accelerate the adoption of precision nutrient management and soil health practices in partnership with agricultural retailers in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. More information may be found here and here.

Look for ESMC  Online! 
While you will not be seeing the members of the ESMC team in-person during this time of caution as we collectively respond to halting the spread of COVID-19, ESMC is still moving full speed ahead on its goals and priorities as outlined in the January 2020 newsletter. Team members are available and actively participating in the work of the ESMC. Please let us know if you have a need for a virtual presentation or if you have other questions to be addressed. Stay up-to-date on ESMC happenings at our website and also follow us on social media. We are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as @MarketEcosystem, @EcosystemServicesMarketConsortium and Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, respectively.

Strategies for Improving Soil Health: California’s Healthy Soils Program   
The Climate Group invites interested persons to join them for a webinar delivered in partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation on Tuesday, March 24 at 8 a.m. (PST). Participants will learn about state and regional strategies to improve soil health and carbon sequestration in farmlands and ranchlands, based on the experience of California’s Healthy Soils Program. Further information and registration link may be found here.

Put down that veggie burger. These farmers say their cows can solve the climate crisis
CNN (March 7, 2020) – Reitz, South Africa – Danie Slabbert points toward the cattle that brought his farm back to life. Down the slope ahead of him, 500 black Drakensberger and mottled Nguni cows graze cheek by jowl. The Free State farmer gestures with his giant shepherd’s crook. “If cattle are part of nature, like they are now, then my cows are keeping the system alive,” he says. “How could you think that meat is the problem?” Calls for plant-based diets to save the planet from the climate crisis are growing louder. But there is another, quieter, revolution reshaping the agricultural world. Farmers like Slabbert and their supporters say that what people eat is not as important as how they farm. They believe cattle and cropland could help save the planet. “I have become a steward of this land and the cows are the key,” Slabbert says . . . The key to regenerative farming is combining the two. Slabbert never ploughs his corn fields or leaves them fallow, so he is able to keep the carbon in the soil. The corn is tightly packed — he doesn’t need to get in there to spray. Read the full story here.

What Would it Take to Get More Farmers Fighting Climate Change?
Mother Jones (February 26, 2020) – As signs of a new drought loom over California farm country and a potential return of last spring’s catastrophic floods haunts the Midwestern corn belt, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is out with a new plan to ready US agriculture for the insults of climate change. Called the Agriculture Resilience Act, the bill would enlist growers to help slow global warming by using their soil to sponge up carbon dioxide. Continue reading the full article here.