Minnesota Pilot Project Launched to Increase Farmer Participation in Ecosystem Services Markets
Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced the first-of-its-kind pilot project in Minnesota to provide financial incentives to encourage more farmers to implement practices that help improve soil health, store carbon in soils and reduce nutrient run-off from farm fields. One of only a handful of such projects have been launched to date in the United States. More projects are planned to help test and streamline the creation and sale of credits from farmland for storing carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving water quality and quantity. The goal will then be to establish a national ecosystem services market in 2022.
The project in central Minnesota will work with farmers, at no cost to them, and a number of agricultural businesses and partners to test the ESMC protocols for measuring the ecosystem service benefits of improved nutrient management, soil health, and edge-of-field best management practices on 50,000 acres that have corn and soybean cropping systems with a heavy dairy or livestock component. It was borne out of interest from the local agricultural community and among agribusinesses in the development of long-term financial incentives for sustainably managed farmland. Baseline testing of fields and soil will begin this fall in the project area, which includes much of the land that drains into the Sauk River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. Improvements will then be tracked and assessed.
The Minnesota project is made possible through funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and TNC, and it leverages existing cost share and technical assistance funding from project partners including Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District, AgCentric, Centra Sota Cooperative, Environmental Initiative, Field to Market, Headwaters Agriculture Sustainability Partnership, Houston Engineering, Land O’Lakes Truterra, MBOLD, Midwest Dairy, MN Milk Producers Assoc, Syngenta and the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative.
In addition to these partners, ESMC and TNC look to collaborate with additional existing farm data and sustainability programs and partners to increase market innovation in support of cost-effective practices and projects that benefit the environment and producers.
“North America has always served as the breadbasket to the world. We can also now serve as a global model, demonstrating how farmers and conservationists can work together to achieve mutual goals. We are showing that through best-management practices and targeted conservation projects we can achieve a triple win: lower farming costs, produce more food, and conserve healthy lands and waters for the next generation,” said Leif Fixen, The Nature Conservancy’s Agriculture Strategy Manager.
ESMC is launching several more pilot projects this fall and next spring, focusing on row crop, grassland, and grain production systems.
to surface water, while also providing key insights to attain efficiency and scale,” said
Debbie Reed, ESMC Executive Director. “Thorough understanding of how cropland can
provide ecosystem services is essential as we strive to offer our programming from coast to
coast and ultimately reward producers for services provided across 250 million acres."
Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is a public private partnership of the agricultural supply chain and value chain – including agricultural producer groups and co-ops, major corporate food and beverage companies, agribusiness, conservation NGO’s, ag tech companies, land grant universities, and others. Collectively, members are investing in and testing ESMC’s national scale market conceived and designed for agriculture.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at nature.org.