Missouri Biodiversity Pilot Project Provides Opportunities to Increase Conservation Habitat

Missouri corn and soybean farmers have a new opportunity to expand pollinator-friendly landscapes through a first-of-its-kind pilot project that quantifies and certifies biodiversity credits. The pilot is launched in partnership with the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Missouri Department of Conservation, MFA Incorporated and the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC). The pilot offers farmers an opportunity to participate in an innovative program to earn biodiversity credits along with agricultural carbon and water quality credits as part of ESMC’s national ecosystem services market program. 

Missouri farmers working to create or enhance pollinator habitat within existing or new field borders, buffers, waterways, or on other non-productive agricultural ground are eligible. Once credits are quantified, verified, and certified, ESMC makes the credits available for purchase to interested buyers. 

“This two-year 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. “Many of the conservation practices also provide soil health benefits, reduce erosion, improve water quality, and capture carbon in the environment. 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 for future generations.” 

Corn and soybeans are the most widely grown crops in North America. Though not essential to corn and soybean production, pollinators like native bees commonly forage in these fields. As more farmers continue to adopt precision technology to better utilize productive acres, 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 project is the latest in a portfolio of more than 10 projects ESMC has launched to test and refine its market program for full market launch in 2022. The pilots test ESMC’s processes for credit generation and sales and ensure all other program aspects are operational and meet grower and buyer needs. 

“Our members have asked for opportunities to invest in increasing biodiversity through their agricultural supply chains,” notes ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed. “Through ESMC’s unique nonprofit public-private-partnership, we’re creating an opportunity to increase biodiversity while adding to the current demand for carbon, water quality, and water conservation credits. Our ability to stack credits and compensate farmers and ranchers is a value-added opportunity for all our members.” 

Missouri farmers interested in learning more about the pilot biodiversity project and creating pollinator-friendly landscapes in tandem with the current carbon pilot program are encouraged to visit www.mocarbonpilot.com. 
The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council is a statewide, farmer-led organization working to improve opportunities for Missouri soybean farmers though a combination of research, outreach, education and market development efforts supported by the soy checkoff. Learn more online by exploring mosoy.org.