RALIEGH, NORTH CAROLINA, U.S. —ADM, Bunge, Cargill, General Mills, Indigo Agriculture, McDonald’s USA, Noble Research Institute, LLC, Soil Health Institute and The Nature Conservancy have joined together to create the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) in order to advance the development of sustainable agriculture practices.

Specifically, the ESMC will work to further develop a market-based approach to promote land stewardship to build healthy soils, soil carbon sequestration and water conservation on the globe’s working lands.

Mars Inc. joined the consortium at the Legacy Partner level and the 10 other founding members are placed at the Founding Circle level.

The ESMC’s goal is to enable and encourage farmers and ranchers to adopt and sustain conservation management practices to improve soil health, reduce GHG emissions, and water quality and reduce water use.

According to the ESMC, the adoption of such practices across acres of the world’s working lands would have a lasting global impact, creating positive social, economic and environmental outcomes.

To guide the new consortium, Debbie Reed has been selected as its executive director. She has been working on this project and its activities since it began.

Reed is president of DRD Associates LLC, provides technical, policy and strategic support to a range of organizations in the areas of agricultural climate change mitigation and sustainable food and agriculture. Reed has focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and ecosystem services from the agricultural sector since 1997, having worked at the White House Council on Environmental Quality as the director of legislative affairs and agricultural policy and in the U.S. Senate as a senior staffer on natural resource and agricultural issues for U.S. Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska.

“There is no subject about which I am more passionate than working with farmers and ranchers to properly steward our natural environment,” Reed said. “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.”

With this launch, the ESMC will be housed within and administratively supported by the Soil Health Institute.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are vital to addressing many of the conservation challenges facing the world today,” said 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.”

The ESMC will drive the coordinated development of advanced analytical tools and technologies to cost-effectively 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.

The 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 that is focused on development of cause and effect assessment from production management practices, led by Noble Research Institute.

Future ESMC plans include additional pilots and by 2022 the program aims to include all major agricultural production systems and geographies in the United States.

“From the onset of this initiative, we knew that it would take at least a national effort to effect change,” Reed said. “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.”

Noble Research Institute initiated, supported financially, and led the 20 months of activities preceding the launch of the consortium. In 2019, the Walton Family Foundation provided $400,000 to further the development of the ecosystem service market and distribution 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,” said Moira McDonald of the Walton Family Foundation. This funding builds on support from the McKnight Foundation and General Mills Foundation.

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

“We’re proud to partner with the consortium and its members to support farmers and ranchers who are building healthy soil on their land,” said Jerry Lynch, vice-president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills.  Both Lynch and General Mills have been involved in the effort since the early multi-stakeholder convening process in 2017 that led to the formation of the ESMC.