While working for former Senator Bob Kerrey in the US Senate in the late 1990s, I enjoyed working with a bipartisan group of staff and members who, like Senator Kerrey understood that agricultural ecosystems are both a source and a sink of carbon and greenhouse gases (GHG). We convened policymakers and the agricultural sector to explore innovative policies, programs and voluntary market mechanisms to tap that potential. This experience instigated a career change for me.
Last month Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) launched Eco-Harvest, ESMC’s market program to achieve collective agricultural supply chain action to support net zero climate commitments in the food and beverage sector, represents the culmination of insights and collaborations in the intervening decades. Eco-Harvest by ESMC is a shared accomplishment: it underscores the capacity of public private partnerships and a shared vision to leverage resources to address monumental societal needs.
Global food and beverage companies in our partnership are leading the private sector in investments to achieve net zero and science-based commitments to combat climate change. They fully understand that agricultural production, while key to their success, is in the crosshairs of climate change impacts. Crops and livestock are succumbing to heat stress, flooding, droughts, fires and displacement – a mirror image of the human suffering from climate change. These companies are investing millions of dollars to work with US farmers and ranchers to improve the resiliency of agricultural operations and to reduce GHG emissions and other natural resource impacts. It is not greenwashing, green wishing or carbon offsetting: these are real, absolute, impactful investments compelled by science and necessity.
Eco-Harvest leverages private investments in a nonprofit program that maximizes support and payments to farmers and ranchers for their services. Eco-Harvest mobilizes supply chain partner investments and shared outcomes. Our national scale collective action program was built, tested and refined with engagement of the agricultural supply chain and value chain. It assures credible outcomes in a science-based, standards-based, rigorous program that is third-party verified. Unlike carbon offsets, supply chain emissions reductions are absolute: they do not allow increased GHG emissions elsewhere. Supply chain action is the only pathway to net zero.
The launch of Eco-Harvest was years in the making. It represents due diligence, planning, research and development and collaboration. It exists due to the wisdom of the US Congress in establishing the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to support public-private partnerships in agriculture. ESMC and our research arm, the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) are a FFAR success story. Since 2019, ESMRC and our program with more than 70 member organizations across the agricultural supply chain and value chain have pilot-tested and refined a full-service program to generate quantified, verified outcomes that increase soil carbon and reduce GHG from agricultural activities. The launch of Eco-Harvest signals market-readiness has been achieved. The end-to-end digitized infrastructure we collectively developed generates carbon and GHG supply chain emissions factors that represent quantified, verified impacts achieved annually. Our innovative integrated program also generates water quality and water quantity outcomes for corporate reporting.
Climate change is a multifaceted issue that requires an all-hands effort. We must act nimbly, collaboratively and at scale to stop further devastating impacts to climate. We welcome others to join us in our collective mission to achieve credible monumental public benefits. Collaborative action will reap collective success and benefit US agriculture, consumers and the planet.
About the Author
Debbie Reed began her career in climate change and agriculture while working for former Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska. She went on to work for former President Bill Clinton at the Council for Environmental Quality as the legislative director and director of agricultural programs where she coordinated US agency and legislative actions and policies on voluntary climate change opportunities for US agriculture. Reed continues to build on the role of collective action to improve technical, programmatic and market mechanisms to reward US farmers and ranchers for the climate and ecosystem service outcomes in high demand from society.
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