WASHINGTON – Climate change is threatening food security and farmer livelihoods, however, implementing climate-smart farming practices that reduce emissions will help farmers thrive—not just survive. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) contributed $10.3 million to the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) to establish a $20 million research arm for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, an innovative collaboration that is creating a functional ecosystem services market that will launch and be fully operational in 2022. The ecosystems market will pay and recognize farmers and ranchers who adopt conservation management practices that improve soil health and water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; this research consortium will provide the research necessary to create a scaled, efficient, cost-effective marketplace that works for farmers and ranchers. 

The agriculture sector accounts for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, through an ecosystem services market, agriculture can mitigate up to 89 percent of its emissions by incentivizing farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil. According to the 2018 report from the New Climate Economy: The next 2-3 years are a critical window to make an impact on climate change. The report recommends several priorities that need immediate action, including carbon pricing and private sector involvement.   

ESMRC, the research arm of the Consortium, was formed to advance research that supports an ecosystem services market that incentivizes farmers and ranchers to improve on-farm production practices. The Research Consortium delivers a partner-driven framework that will catalyze the creation of the national ESM program and convene experts to enhance the economic and environmental resilience of our food supply. 

“Farmers and agriculture can be a constructive force in reversing climate change and preserving natural resources.  Farmers are the largest group of land stewards and when they implement climate-smart practices, it helps us all,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “I expect this consortium to be at the center of creating new value for these practices and bringing that value back to the farmers who are so deserving to be compensated for their good work. FFAR is thrilled to be the major funder of this unique effort.”  

The ESMRC is working to achieve the following objectives:  

• Establish a functioning ESM protocol for ecosystem services (carbon, water quality and water quantity) 

• Identify agricultural management system impacts on ecosystem services 

• Develop innovative advanced learning techniques to improve ecosystem services monitoring and quantification 

• Institute an online platform that tracks and quantifies changes in ecosystem services data 

• Standardize data collection 

• Quantify carbon sequestration capacity of agricultural soils 

“We are excited and honored to welcome FFAR to the Research arm of the Consortium”, said ESMC’s Executive Director, Debbie Reed. “This public-private partnership is a true win for US farmers and ranchers who will be paid for the services they deliver, and will help scale carbon drawdown. This market will provide the tools, support and buyers to recognize and reward farmers who increase soil carbon sequestration, reduce GHG, and improve water quality and water use conservation. ESMC’s outcomes-based market brings together the collaborators needed to ensure a viable market well into the future.”

Along with measurable improvements to the environment, forming a viable ecosystem services market will benefit farmers and ranchers in several ways. The program will help improve farm management practices that enhance overall operational efficiency in the form of higher yields, increased resiliency to severe climate shifts, and improved water and soil quality. 

The intended impact of this effort is to enroll 30 percent of available land in the top four crop regions and top four pasture regions to impact 250 million acres by 2030 and 650 million acres by 2050 in outcomes-based conservation practices.

“As a sixth-generation Kansas farmer, increasing soil health and resiliency has always been important to my family and me,” said Charles Atkinson, an American Soybean Association Board member who raises soybeans with his father and son on 1,000 acres in Southeast Kansas near Columbus. “We applaud FFAR’s funding to ESMC to develop a market to pay producers for conservation practices we establish on our land to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gases and increase water quality and quantity. The research to be conducted with FFAR’s support is a critical part of the equation in making ecosystem markets successful.”