Crops News

New pilot program to show farmers the benefit of conservation


The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and GROWMARK are launching an ESMC pilot project in Illinois to generate quantified, verified, certified greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improved water quality credits from agriculture. The project will stack and sell the carbon and water quality credits to meet corporate reporting requirements and improve agricultural resilience.

The pilot is one of nine that ESMC is launching this year with members to test all market program aspects prior to full market launch in 2022. The pilots will test credit generation and sales and ensure all other program aspects are operational and meet grower (supplier) and buyer needs.

This 10,000-acre pilot project in Central Illinois is working with 10 to 15 corn and soy farmers who are enrolled in ICGA’s Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program which works with farmers to help them understand the costs and benefits of adopting new conservation practices. For the growers, this ESMC pilot project provides the opportunity to understand how their improved soil health practices translate into economic benefits.

Rodney Weinzierl, a third-generation farmer and Executive Director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association said, “Farmers want and need markets to be transparent, efficient and have integrity. Having this community of involvement with ESMC and ESMC’s wide membership is what will make this successful.”

“As ICGA started working with farmers on water quality and soil health issues about five years ago, we realized that farmers have unmet needs when it comes to scaling conservation practices. Having a better understanding of the financial risks and benefits for adopting conservation practices, coupled with specialized technical support for scaling practices is key. The collaborative work we are doing with ESMC can help meet those needs for farmers,” said ICGA’s Director of Water Quality Research, Laura F. Gentry. “The idea of stacking ecosystem credits makes ESMC very exciting for farmers.”

ICGA and PCM will evaluate how the ESMC market-based incentives, combined with the agronomic and production benefits of improved soil health practices, can positively impact farm profitability and sustainability to overcome the cost obstacles of conservation implementation. PCM Specialists will provide farmers training in the ESMC program and the ESMC verification process. GROWMARK will provide on-farm technical assistance and soil testing for farmers participating in the pilot. ESMC is quantifying, monitoring, and verifying outcomes from the project, working with the global certification bodies Gold Standard and SustainCERT to certify the credits and the protocols, and selling the credits to pay farmers for their impacts.

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