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MFA and partner organizations announce new carbon and water-quality pilot

MFA INCORPORATED IS PARTNERING with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, the Missouri Corn Mer­chandising Council and the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) to launch a pilot program focused on exploring carbon and water-quality markets.

MFA and its partner organizations are enrolling a limited number of corn and soybean acres into the pilot. The aim is to help farmers generate certified ecosystem credits that can be sold once verified by ESMC, a nonprofit member-based organization. The two-year pilot program is now under way and will conclude in December 2022.

“As grower partners, we have a role to play in these markets,” said Adam Jones, MFA Incorporated conservation specialist. “There are good agronomic reasons to adopt the practices these ecosystem or carbon markets require to par­ticipate. MFA’s participation is a natural extension of what we currently do with our precision services.”

Eligible growers will implement conservation farming practices such as planting cover crops, applying fertilizer more efficiently or moving away from conventional tillage. There is no cost for farmers to participate. Soil sampling is required but will be made possible by the corn and soy­bean checkoff programs and MFA. Soil data results will also be made available to participants.

“I think it’s important from an MFA standpoint to stay current with some of the new things that are happening for our producers and bring those services and verification to them,” said Dr. Jason Weirich, MFA Incorporated vice president of Agri Services. “We want to give our farmers every opportunity possible to stay competitive in the mar­ketplace.”

In addition to providing the soil-sampling services re­quired to measure outcomes of the eligible practices, MFA will assist with data collection and provide guidance to growers throughout the process.

“There’s a lot of data that goes along with these pro­grams, so we need to be able to prove the practice change and the management that happens over the course of the program,” Jones said. “We have the ability to enter all the planting passes, tillage passes, yield data—everything that’s necessary for verification and ensuring growers are meet­ing the deadlines and requirements that go along with a carbon-credit program.”

MFA’s statewide network of field staff and precision agronomy services will fill a key role and help ensure success in meeting pilot goals, according to Darrick Steen, director of environmental programs for Missouri Corn and Missouri Soybean associations. He said the partnering organizations all share a common commitment to the state’s farmers.

“Missouri farmers have lots of questions about emerging agricultural carbon markets,” Steen said. “This pilot and partnership with ESMC will answer some of those questions and help farmers tap into the full benefits of the stored carbon that their hard work and soil investments are generating. Our goal is to pro­vide farmers a chance to better understand this voluntary agriculture carbon market space.”

Talk surrounding carbon and emissions has ramped up in recent years, and industrial man­ufacturers may need to purchase carbon credits to stay in line with certain environmental standards. Through the practices ESMC has set forth in this pilot program, farmers may be able to create these credits for companies to buy.

ESMC has established pilot programs across the nation and plans to launch a fully functioning national-scale ecosystem services market designed to sell both carbon and water-qual­ity credits for the agricultural sector by 2022. The Missouri program is one of more than 10 pilots ESMC is launching this year. Growers who enroll acreage during the pilot phase will have the opportunity to gain advanced entry into the full market once launched.

“A lot of players have entered this carbon market space,” Jones said. “Some of these companies are aggregators, profiting both off of the data collected through the verification process and the sale of the credit itself. Because ESMC is a nonprofit, they recover costs to the point of covering their own expenses, and that’s all they’re looking to do.”

Farmers who enroll in the pilot phase will have the oppor­tunity to test new innovations in quantifying these carbon and water-quality benefits to help guide ESMC’s program develop­ment. There are no minimum or maximum acreage limits to enroll, and farmers don’t have to enroll all of their acreage to participate. In the pilot phase, contracts are annual, and there is no penalty for dropping out of the program. This provides more flexibility and decreases risk for participants.

Conceptually, there is the potential for farmers to stack multiple ecosystem credits, including those related to soil carbon and greenhouse gas as well as water quality and quanti­ty. That idea makes working with ESMC an attractive option for many farmers, Jones said.

“We’re looking for people who want to learn with us about these markets,” he said. “The ESMC program is outcomes driven, so there’s no carrot or promises up front other than the creation of these credits. I think this is a good opportunity to see how this type of program will fit our geography and man­agement practices on Missouri farms.”

For more information on the program or to express interest in participating, visit

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