CHENEY, Kan. — Farmers participating in a project with the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), General Mills and Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) are receiving payments this month for the environmental impacts of their regenerative agricultural practice changes. The wheat farmers are part of a 2020 ESMC pilot project designed to pay farmers for the quantified and verified climate and water quality benefits of their practice changes in the Cheney Reservoir in Kansas.
The Kansas project is one of more than 10 projects that ESMC has launched with its members to test and refine its voluntary market program prior to full market program launch next year. The pilots test ESMC’s processes for asset quantification, verification and certification, and sales, and ensure all other program aspects are operational and meet producer and buyer needs.
By working collaboratively, all three organizations and their partners are demonstrating how agricultural solutions can deliver results that meet corporate and societal demand as well as that of local public water authorities. This pilot was open to producers participating in General Mill’s regenerative agriculture program. The project measured and modeled beneficial impacts from agricultural production system changes. As part of ESMC’s market program, the verified impacts allow the benefits to be claimed by corporations in the agricultural supply chain who invested in interventions to reduce their supply chain impacts. General Mills is utilizing the greenhouse gas reductions in their sustainability reporting, while KDHE is identifying local buyers who seek certified water quality outcomes.
“General Mills is accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture by supporting and resourcing farmers to drive desired outcomes, while measuring impact,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and global impact officer, General Mills. “Transitioning to a regenerative farming system has both environmental and economic benefits, and we’re glad to introduce this ecosystem service payment to farmers in our Southern Plains program in exchange for the positive impact they are driving for society.”
“At the start of this project, our goal was to encourage farming practices that improve both soil health and water quality in the Cheney Reservoir region to demonstrate that agriculture is the solution to a more resilient and clean water supply for Wichita residents, said Leo Henning, Deputy Secretary of the Division of Environment at KDHE. “With these payments and the results to date, I am proud to say we achieved that goal and I look forward to results from the next year of practice changes.” said Henning.
“Providing funds to farmers for their outcomes through an ecosystem payment is cutting edge and an important part in the future of agriculture,” said Brandon Kaufman, Kansas farmer and partner in the ESMC program. “Instead of reacting to issues created by mainstream, traditional agriculture, this payment approach aims to eliminate them before they could even become a problem. Monoculture systems may need to become a thing of the past – perennials, polycultures and intercroppings are what I believe can create a future that is both sustainable and profitable.”
Debbie Reed, ESMC Executive Director, noted, “The project is proof of concept that ESMC’s enabling environment can successfully leverage collective investments and generate shared outcomes in a single project. ESMC’s innovative protocols can benefit multiple buyers and provide stacked payments to producers based on quantified and verified outcomes. It gives our members confidence and enables us to further build and scale our program in 2022. The successes and the lessons learned provided key insights to attain greater efficiency in future.”
— Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
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