Ten private-sector companies and non-profit organizations announced their intent to form the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) to promote land stewardship to build healthy soils, soil carbon sequestration and water conservation on the globe’s working lands.

ESMC’s founding circle is comprised Cargill, Wichita, Kan.; General Mills, Minneapolis; McDonald’s USA, Oak Brook, Ill.; Mars Inc., McLean, Va.; ADM, Chicago; Bunge Ltd., White Plains, N.Y.; Indigo Agriculture, Boston, Mass.; Noble Research Institute, LLC, Ardmore, Okla., Soil Health Institute, Morrisville, N.C.; and The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Va. 

The planned market enables and encourages farmers and ranchers to adopt and sustain conservation management practices to improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve related water quality and reduce water use.  

Debbie Reed, who has been working on the project since its inception, was selected as executive director of ESMC.

“There is no subject about which I am more passionate than working with farmers and ranchers to properly steward our natural environment,” Reed says “I’m thrilled to lead the consortium because I am joined by numerous like-minded organizations and individuals from across the country. We already have seen such a tremendous outpouring of support.”

Founding partner members pledge financial support as well as their participation to create a movement to measure, verify and monetize increases in soil carbon, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improved water quality and water conservation from the agricultural sector.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are vital to addressing many of the conservation challenges facing the world today,” says Larry Clemens, director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program. “We are excited to join other members of the consortium to work toward a sustainable food system through improved soil health that benefits farmers, ranchers, communities and our natural resources.”

“We’re proud to partner with the consortium and its members to support farmers and ranchers who are building healthy soil on their land,” adds Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills. 

Noble Research Institute initiated, financially supported and led the 20 months of activities preceding the launch of the consortium. In 2019, the Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, Ark., provided $400,000 to further the development of the ecosystem service market and dissemination of production management practices for agricultural working lands.

“The Walton Family Foundation is proud to support ESM as part of a movement across America’s farms toward healthier soils that are good for farmers and the environment,” says Moira McDonald, senior program officer for the Walton Family Foundation’s environment program.

“From the onset of this initiative, we knew that it would take at least a national effort to effect change,” Reed says. “Beginning with Noble Research Institute, these companies and organizations have demonstrated their desire to be national leaders in this space. We thank them for their support and look forward to achieving our goals together.”

With this launch, ESMC will be housed within and administratively supported by the Soil Health Institute. ESMC will drive the coordinated development of advanced analytical tools and technologies to measure and monitor changes in sustainability outcomes and contribute income to farmers and ranchers through insetting and offsetting supply chain strategies and the sale of ecosystem services credits.

ESMC is conducting a pilot test of its integrated ecosystem credit protocol on 50,000 acres of rangeland and farmland in Texas and Oklahoma. This initial test is part of a land stewardship pilot focused on development of cause and effect assessment from production management practices, led by Noble Research Institute. Future ESMC plans include additional pilots and later implementation across the United States in 2019 and beyond. By 2022, the program intends to encompass all major agricultural production systems and geographies in the United States.