1. Annual Report
  2. 2017

Never Fear Challenges

President's Message

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There will always be reasons to avoid a challenge.

Maybe no one has ever attempted it before. Maybe the cost is too high or the timetable too short. Maybe the obstacles to success line up like an endless hurdler's lane. How many groundbreaking ideas have died seconds after inspiration merely because of the internal roll call of self-doubt?

Within the Noble Research Institute core values exist three simple words: "Never fear challenges." We will not let the threat of failure or the perceived size of a task deter us from venturing into the unknown. This perspective changes how we approach problems and unleashes our ability to solve them.

Throughout the pages of this annual report, we display the intrepid spirit that makes the impossible possible. Be it pioneering new CRISPR technology or leading a national cover crop initiative, we strive to attain the unattainable. This organizational ethos is not merely written on paper; it's etched into our actions.

In the last six years, Noble has led the Soil Renaissance, which brought together experts from all corners of the soil conversation to generate new ideas and lasting solutions. Success was not assured; but we walked into the unfamiliar, and our determination resulted in the creation of the Soil Health Institute, an entity with the sole focus to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of the soil.

We also helped create agricultural research organizations (AROs), a new type of 501(c)(3) that offers the next generation of philanthropists a new vehicle for using private resources to advance agriculture. And as a course of our conviction, we became the nation's largest ARO.

Noble will never fear challenges. We will continue to convene unlikely collaborators. We will seek innovations through research and technology. We will carry the banner of agriculture. This is why I am confident as we once again pioneer new territory.

In March 2017, we assembled a series of meetings with multisector stakeholders to explore and assess the potential for creating a radical new solution that would jump-start the adoption of soil health practices across the country.

The group assessed the challenges and risks of developing a new type of market, one focused on farmers and ranchers. They created lists of pros and cons, obstacles, and opportunities. The question was then posed: Could we build a large-scale program to create and sell ecosystem service credits from working agricultural lands?

Walking away would have been easy. It's always easier.

Then the words of our founder, Lloyd Noble, echoed from the past: "The only degree to which we can make real progress is the degree to which, when we have ideas, that we can get those ideas motivated into action."

The prospect of creating a new type of market was daring. The only missing component was the desire to try, and that is a characteristic we are never short on. So we have embarked on an ambitious national effort to develop a market-based ecosystem services program that incentivizes farmers and ranchers to voluntarily implement soil health practices. A market such as this supports the agricultural producer with the grander goal of benefiting society at large.

Healthy soil can sequester and build soil carbon, enhance water quantity and quality, increase production, and decrease the cost of inputs. And these are just a few among a long and growing list of advantages that have positive generational repercussions.

At the moment of this letter, we are in a steeplechase of obstacles and work. We know that success is not assured, but the possibility to transform agriculture is too great of an opportunity to not try.

So we will walk forward with our team. We will put forth our full effort. We will be driven by hope. Ultimately, we can be proud of the outcome because no matter the result, we never feared the challenge.


Bill Buckner

President and CEO

For more information on the Ecosystem Services Market, visit noble.org/market.