A close-up of budding soybean plants among residue from

(Photo Credit: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Iowa Soybean Association, Quantified Ventures, Cargill Partner to Advance Agricultural Conservation in Iowa

April 9, 2020

Financial incentives included in program helping Iowa farmers enhance soil health, water conservation

The Iowa Soybean Association, Quantified Ventures and Cargill are announcing the launch of a collaborative, market-based program to accelerate soil health and water conservation across Iowa farmland and provide a critical new source of financial incentives to Iowa farmers.

The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund compensates farmers for implementing agricultural management best practices on their farms. The resulting environmental improvements, including enhanced water quality and carbon sequestration, are independently monitored, verified and purchased by municipal, corporate, and governmental entities who are seeking innovative ways to reduce their environmental impacts and costs. 

“The Fund is a win-win for farmers implementing conservation practices and those benefiting from the outcomes of those practices,” says Adam Kiel, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Director of Conservation and External Programs. “Farmers are well positioned to play a lead role in improving water quality and sequestering carbon,” Kiel says. “It’s also an ideal way for farmers to scale beyond the acre and contract limits of traditional government funded cost share programs.”

Nearly 10,000 acres in Iowa are already enrolled in the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund. This year, the Fund will achieve an estimated 100,000 pounds of nitrogen reductions and 10,000 pounds of phosphorus reductions in water. Additionally, 7,500 tons of carbon dioxide will be sequestered in soils, an amount equivalent to removing 1,480 cars from the road. The intent is to scale the Fund into additional states and regions to realize even greater positive environmental impacts and farmer benefits.

The outcomes-based funding model aligns with Cargill’s strategic focus to develop scalable, public-private partnerships that enable farmers to improve soil health, carbon storage and water quality and access.

“Cargill is excited about the potential of this innovative approach to support and mitigate risk for farmers as they invest in soil health and other conservation best management practices,” said Ryan Sirolli, Director of Row Crop Sustainability at Cargill. “We’re incentivizing more participants to implement best management practices that provide positive benefits for their business and the environment.”

Outcomes generated by the Fund will have far-reaching benefits for multiple stakeholders.

  • For participating municipalities, benefits include flexibility with permit requirements, source water protection, flood risk reduction and cost savings over grey infrastructure.
  • Corporations and the industry see value in enhanced soil carbon sequestration to meet supply chain sustainability commitments
  • Farmers see improved on-farm agronomics and resiliency as they build healthier soils.

Mark Lambert, Director of Agriculture at Quantified Ventures, says the Fund represents an important evolution in the way agricultural conservation is incentivized.

“We believe that shifting from ‘pay for practice’ approaches to ‘pay for outcomes’ approaches will unlock the impact investment capital needed to mitigate climate change and improve water quality at scale,” he said. “By combining the multiple beneficiaries of conservation outcomes into a single transaction, the Fund can deliver cost effective and scalable impact.”

Development of the Fund was supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Amy Saltzman, Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation, said solutions that work for both the environment and the economy are the ones that stand the test of time. 

“This fund is poised for long-term success, which is good for clean water, healthy soil, and communities and jobs that depend on them,” Saltzman said. “The Walton Family Foundation is proud to support the creation of this fund, which will help leverage the power of markets for a more sustainable future.”

Sustainable Environmental Consultants, a third-party to the transaction, will quantify the outcomes of the program. Additional field verification will occur, including soil and water sampling. To ensure integrity of the environmental benefits generated, the Fund only supports practices and outcomes that are additive to a farmer’s current baseline of agricultural practices.

The Fund will be jointly administered by the Iowa Soybean Association and Quantified Ventures, with initial funding support provided by Cargill and the Walton Family Foundation. Opportunities for additional farmer enrollment will be announced later this year. Interested outcome purchasers are encouraged to contact the Fund for pricing and participation information. 

The Iowa Soybean Association (www.iasoybeans.com) is “Driven To Deliver” increased soybean demand through market development and new uses, farmer-focused research and results, timely information and know-how and policy initiatives enabling farmers and the industry to flourish. Founded in 1964 by farmers to serve farmers, ISA is governed by a board of 22 farmers to advocate on behalf of the state’s 40,000 soybean producers, including more than 15,000 ISA farmer members and industry stakeholders.