New Market Planned to Pay Farmers for Soil Carbon, Water Quality


By Virginia Gewin, Successful Farming  - 3/6/2019


General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonald’s, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation. 


Talks for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium were convened two years ago by the Noble Research Institute, which has committed over $2 million to the endeavor with additional support from the General Mills Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and McKnight Foundations. The aim of the venture is to develop protocols and a market framework to issue greenhouse gas reduction credits to farmers who adopt conservation practices.


The market will work in two ways. First, farmers will receive credits for the amount of carbon they sequester in the soil or water quality they improve, giving farmers a new and potentially significant income stream; companies can then buy those credits to meet their climate or water goals. Secondly, the market will offer companies a way to account for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, water quality, and water use reduction to satisfy broader supply chain reporting requirements.


The new consortium is, arguably, the most ambitious market to reduce carbon emissions and improve water quality in the agricultural sector.


“The Consortium will help stand up this market to provide incentives to producers and reward them for providing these ecosystem benefits,” says Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer for General Mills. A market, he notes, has the ability to speed adoption at the scale needed to dramatically improve soil health over millions of acres.


“We’ve been scaling [efforts to improve soil health] in our own supply chain. It’s intensive and it’s slow going,” says Lynch. Earlier this week, “we made a public commitment to advance regenerative practices on 1 million acres by 2030. This [market] is a mechanism that can help us do that much more effectively.”


Previous carbon markets have had minimal uptake in agriculture because...


more, including links