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09. Debbie Reed – Translating Consumer Preferences to Farmer Opportunities

Soil health indicators

The Ecosystems Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is a market designed to sell carbon, water quality and water quantity credits for the agriculture sector. Debbie Reed is the executive director of the ESMC, and she’s had a long career in Washington, DC in food and agriculture.

Debbie studied human nutrition and dietetics landing her a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But her appreciation for production agriculture grew, and later she became involved in how agriculture can mitigate climate change. Now, under Reed’s leadership, the ESMC considers agriculture an incredibly important component of natural resource preservation and enhancement in our country and helps farmers capitalize on their environmental investments.

“The interest from consumers right now is on climate change, climate change mitigation, and that translates into carbon and greenhouse gases. So, what is the carbon and greenhouse gas impact of food production and agricultural production?  We [ESMC] track soil carbon, net greenhouse gases, water quality and water quantity, but we will be adding additional components such as biodiversity. That’s another ecosystem service benefit that agriculture truly impacts in terms of its focus on agricultural lands and working lands,” Reed said.

She is working hard to perfect the infrastructure of the ESMC marketplace right now. She describes it as “kicking the tires.” The process includes gathering feedback from the farmers and ranchers that will supply ecosystem credits and from the corporations that will purchase the credits.

“We hear the voices of all those particular members as we test, as we refine and perfect the system. And our plan is to launch as a fully functioning market in 2022,” said Reed. “The beauty of our system is that we know that there is demand from our members at the table in purchasing those credits at the end of the system. So we’re trying to take the signals we’re getting from society, from these corporations and turn them into opportunities for farmers and ranchers to just engage in the system and we take on the work of the quantification, if you will.”

Reed describes what it might look like for a farmer or rancher to enroll and participate in the ESMC in the podcast available above.