ANKENY, IOWA, US — Cargill, along with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and Quantified Ventures, launched a market-based program to accelerate soil health and water conservation across Iowa farmland and provide a new source of financial incentives to Iowa farmers.

The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund compensates farmers for implementing agricultural management best practices on their farms. The resulting environmental improvements, including enhanced water quality and carbon sequestration, are independently monitored, verified and purchased by municipal, corporate, and governmental entities that are seeking innovative ways to reduce their environmental impacts and costs.

“The fund is a win-win for farmers implementing conservation practices and those benefiting from the outcomes of those practices,” said Adam Kiel, director of conservation and external programs for the ISA. “Farmers are well positioned to play a lead role in improving water quality and sequestering carbon. It’s also an ideal way for farmers to scale beyond the acre and contract limits of traditional government funded cost share programs.”

Nearly 10,000 acres in Iowa are already enrolled in the fund. This year, it will achieve an estimated 100,000 pounds of nitrogen reductions and 10,000 pounds of phosphorus reductions in water. Additionally, 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be sequestered in soils, an amount equivalent to removing 1,480 cars from the road. The goal is to scale the fund into additional states and regions to achieve greater positive environmental impacts and farmer benefits.

The outcomes-based funding model aligns with Cargill’s strategic focus to develop scalable, public-private partnerships that enable farmers to improve soil health, carbon storage and water quality and access.

“Cargill is excited about the potential of this innovative approach to support and mitigate risk for farmers as they invest in soil health and other conservation best management practices,” said Ryan Sirolli, director of row crop sustainability at Cargill. “We’re incentivizing more participants to implement best management practices that provide positive benefits for their business and the environment.”

Mark Lambert, director of agriculture at Quantified Ventures, said the fund represents an evolution in the way agricultural conservation is incentivized.

“We believe that shifting from ‘pay for practice’ approaches to ‘pay for outcomes’ approaches will unlock the impact investment capital needed to mitigate climate change and improve water quality at scale,” Lambert said. “By combining the multiple beneficiaries of conservation outcomes into a single transaction, the fund can deliver cost effective and scalable impact.”

Sustainable Environmental Consultants, a third-party to the transaction, will quantify the outcomes of the program. Additional field verification will occur, including soil and water sampling. To ensure integrity of the environmental benefits generated, the fund only supports practices and outcomes that are additive to a farmer’s current baseline of agricultural practices.

The fund will be jointly administered by the ISA and Quantified Ventures, with initial funding support provided by Cargill and the Walton Family Foundation.