By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy
While farmers have profound respect for the land and natural resources, the farm economy does not always adequately align profitability and stewardship. However, we are growing in our understanding of farmers’ ability to help address climate change and other environmental challenges through production and conservation practices. Noble Research Institute (NRI) is currently working to advance ecosystem service markets (ESM) specifically created to compensate farmers and ranchers for the societal benefits resulting from improving soil health. The mission of NRI’s ESM program is “To advance ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems that benefit society.”
NRI is striving to establish a “large-scale program to finance, generate and sell ecosystem service credits from working agricultural lands.” The organization is currently working to structure a full service ESM program, including market protocols and an ecosystem service credit supply and demand assessment. The protocols, which will establish the methods for quantifying ecosystem services provided and the means of compensation for participating farmers, will encourage practices that sequester atmospheric carbon without being prescriptive. The protocols will also address water quality and quantity issues. In early November, NRI presented their work on the protocol to major food and beverage companies, many of whom expressed interest in offsetting their environmental impacts by participating in the program.
NRI will initially pilot this program across 50,000 acres through their Land Stewardship Program in Texas and Oklahoma. NFU Foundation will track the progress of NRI’s ESM Program; Climate Leaders can also stay posted by signing up for NRI’s updates.
Farmers Union organizations may be able to partner with NRI in the future when the organization looks to broaden the program’s scope and benefits with pilot projects in new locations. Climate Column readers can consider how to work with Farmers Union organizations to bolster NRI’s efforts to monetize farmers’ efforts to mitigate climate change and improve water quality.
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