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Biodiversity pilot project allows farmers to cash in on conservation

Missouri corn and soybean farmers have a new opportunity to expand pollinator-friendly landscapes through a first-of-its kind pilot program that quantifies and certifies biodi­versity credits. Growers working to create or enhance pollinator habitat within existing or new field borders, buffers, waterways or other non-productive agricultural ground are eligible for the two-year project.

MFA Incorporated is among the agricultural and conservation entities that are collaborating to offer this program to interested producers. Other partners in the pilot are the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Missouri Department of Conservation and the Ecosys­tem Services Market Consortium (ESMC).

The pilot offers farmers a way to earn biodiversity credits along with agricultural carbon and water quality credits as part of ESMC’s national ecosystem services market program. Once credits are quantified, verified and certified, they are made available for purchase to interested buyers by ESMC, a nonprofit member-based organization.

“This pilot project will benefit the natural resources of our state while recognizing the efforts of farmers working to improve sustainability practices on their farms,” says Clayton Light, conservation manager for the Missouri Corn Merchan­dising Council and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “It is exciting to offer farmers the opportunity to participate in a new, voluntary private market program designed to help improve the land and wildlife habitat.”

Though not essential to production of corn and soybeans, pollinators such as native bees commonly forage in these fields. As more farmers adopt precision technology, information from the biodiversity pilot project can help make informed decisions on land management in less-productive areas.

“Agriculture can play a key role in increasing the diversity, quality and quantity of pollinators and wildlife,” said Bill White, community and private land conservation branch chief with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “By incorporating certain practices on areas of the farm otherwise not used in production, farmers can help provide for species such as monarch butter­flies, bobwhite quail, migrating grassland birds and native bees while supporting sustainable agricultural systems.”

The biodiversity pilot is the latest in a portfolio of more than 10 projects ESMC has established to test and refine its market program for full launch in 2022. Earlier this year, MFA and partnering organizations began working with ESMC on a pilot program to explore carbon and water quality markets.

“Our members have asked for opportunities to invest in increasing biodiversity through their agricultural supply chains,” ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed said. “Through ESMC’s unique nonprofit public-private partnership, we’re creating an opportunity to increase biodiversity while adding to current de­mand for carbon, water quality and water conservation credits.”

Missouri farmers interested in learning more about the pilot biodiversity project are encouraged to visit

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