Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
The goal of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is to create ecosystem service markets that incentivize producers to improve soil health, benefiting both the farmer and society. What sets this program apart is its focus not just on carbon but also water quality, habitat preservation, and biodiversity production.
Set to launch nationwide in 2022, there are currently nine ESMC pilot projects across the country, one of which lies right here in Central Minnesota. Agricultural producers within the Sauk River Watershed and a 30-mile radius have an exciting opportunity to get involved in the rapidly expanding Ecosystem Service Marketplace, and receiving the technical and financial assistance it takes to make lasting changes on the farm.
What are Ecosystem Services?
In the most basic sense Ecosystem Services are the human benefits from nature such as food, fiber, water purification, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, recreation and cultural values. The concept of ecosystems providing these vital services is not new. However, assigning ecological, economic and socio-cultural values to ecosystem services is causing us to think differently about conservation.
Quantifying ecosystem services as “natural capital” creates innovative financial incentives for implementing conservation practices that strike a balance between ecology and economy, and provides practical ways to link the environment and people to lead us toward sustainable solutions.
What is an Ecosystem Services Market?
An ecosystem services market is an organizational structure for buying and selling units of environmental benefit called credits. These markets provide an essential link between the people who are willing to pay for actions that improve the environment and the people who can put conservation actions on the ground.
Carbon, Water quality, Water Quantity, Habitat preservation, and greenhouse gas reduction are all examples of actively traded services. Assigning economic value to these services is creating a shift in how society looks at sustainability, social responsibility, and business opportunities.
What is the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium?
Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a voluntary, farmer-oriented ecosystem service marketplace that maximizes the value returned to producers for positive environmental impacts made through the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices while meeting multiple market needs of buyers.
With members from across the entire agricultural supply and value chains, ESMC is a collaboration working to ensure a farmer-friendly, scientifically defensible, and economically viable program to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers as well as those of corporations, NGOs, consumers and society.
What are the benefits to participants?
Let’s not beat around the bush – first and foremost: there’s money. ESMC’s theory of change is that an economically viable ecosystem service market can deliver the estimated $13.9 billion of private sector demand for these services by providing farmers and ranchers the tools required to monetize their stewardship actions.
ESMC presents a triple-win: farmers gain access to technical assistance and additional revenue streams while enhancing the resilience of their operations; corporate credit buyers can meet their sustainability goals; and the public benefits from cleaner air and water and climate change mitigation.
By leveraging the existing resources for conservation practices producers can readily participate in these markets. Cost-share programs, like those available through NRCS and SWCDs, reduce the financial risk associated with bringing on new practices, and the ESMC program is “practice agnostic”, meaning Producers can make decisions that are best suited and most beneficial to their specific operation.
The Program is currently in a pilot phase so early participants also have the unique opportunity to test new innovations and provide input to guide ESMC program development. The pilot phase will also provide more flexibility and less risk for Producers, who will have an opportunity to roll into the full market when it is launched at the end of 2022
Who is eligible to participate ?
Enrollment in ESMC is designed to be as simple, inclusive and accessible as possible. If the following criteria describe you and your operation, ESMC may be a great fit for you:
Producers who are interested in adopting soil health systems and conservation practices that benefit their agricultural operations while improving environmental impacts.
Producers interested in implementation of improvements that exceed minimum standards set by law.
Producers managing land that has not been deforested in the past 10 years.
Producers with fields that are located within an approved ESMC Project region and production system.
Producers who can provide proof of asset ownership rights.
Producers with fields that are not enrolled in another ecosystem service program that generates credits, offsets, assets, or claims related to soil carbon sequestration and/or changes in greenhouse gas emissions
The pilot projects are designed to test and refine all program aspects, so flexible Producers who can provide feedback and guidance on the developing ESMC Program are preferred.
How does it work?
After answering a few pre-screening questions, the process begins with creating an account in the ESMC Producer Portal. Following account approval by the project manager, a producer can begin selecting fields and soil health practices for enrollment or invite a trusted farm advisor or enrollment specialist to assist them with the process. Click here for a list of qualifying practices.
Once fields are entered in the producer portal, ESMC uses a process called field stratification to develop a site-specific soil sampling plan. Soil testing is then conducted at the end of the current growing season or prior to field operations the following year. Soil cores undergo rigorous lab analysis for parameters including Bulk Density, Phosphorus, pH, and Total Organic Carbon. This soil sampling and analysis is used as a baseline for field conditions and is conducted at no cost to the producer. Click here to view ESMC's soil sampling protocols.
After enrolling and submitting fields, producers use the ESMC Producer Portal to enter production and agronomic data or import them from a 3rd party data collection system by December 31st of each enrollment year.
ESMC then implements the verification process and calculates ecosystem credits, and payments for generated credits are provided to producers between April to June of the following year.
Steps to ESMC Producer Enrollment
2. Field Selection
Completed through ESMC’s easy-to-use interface which initiates stratification for developing a soil sampling plan. This step also allows a Producer to assign optional data access and editing permission to an Advisor who can assist a Producer with data entry.
3. Data Entry
Agricultural management practices can be entered by the Producer and/or Advisor and/or imported from other 3rd party data collection systems.
4. Program Submission
The producer formally submits fields and data for asset quantification and generation. This includes self-certification of data entered and signing of the Producer Agreement. Submission must be completed by December 31st (at the end of the crediting year).
Where can I get more information?
More information on the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium itself can be found on ESMC’s website at https://ecosystemservicesmarket.org/ or on the Program Overview and Program FAQs tabs of the ESMC Producer Portal.
Curious about the Minnesota ESMC Pilot? You can contact one of our growing number of trained enrollment specialists or a project manager from the list below:
Ready to get started?
Great! Let’s begin with a set of pre-screening questions. Do you meet the following Criteria? (Check all that apply)
If you checked all the boxes you’re ready for the next step, creating an account in the ESMC Producer Portal. Once your account is approved you'll be able to select fields and practices or invite an enrollment specialist or other advisor to assist you with the process.
Didn't check all the boxes, but still interested in the possibilities? Just need help enrolling? Contact your local SWCD or NRCS office or reach out to one of the MN ESMC pilot project contacts listed above.
MN ESMC Pilot Area Map