The Farm Bill & Soil Health
Improving Soil Health Is One of the Most Important Things We Can Do—for All of Us
Soil health. These two simple words might not mean much to most people, but to farmers, they are words to live by. Improving soil health on agricultural lands is key to achieving meaningful conservation and economic benefits. Healthy soil is the cornerstone of life on Earth. It facilitates ecosystem diversity, amplifies food production, allows for effective water filtration and storage, and captures soil carbon, which helps reduce the impacts of increasingly variable weather patterns.
Basically, healthy soil means healthy water and land for people and nature.
The Farm Bill can help improve soil health by increasing the number of acres managed with soil health and nutrient stewardship practices through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
In the 2018 Farm Bill, The Nature Conservancy successfully advocated for provisions that would better utilize private sector experts, with the potential to more than double the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s currently limited capacity to enroll new cropland acres in conservation agriculture practices. We believe at least 5 million acres should be enrolled annually dedicated to the adoption of soil health and nutrient stewardship practices like cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, and the 4R approach to nutrient application.
The benefits of this approach would be tremendous.
If farmers can manage nutrients more efficiently to reduce runoff and are able to restore wetlands to capture nutrients escaping their fields, it will lead to cleaner waterways and drinking water. And, since excessive nutrient runoff from farms and other sources contribute to algal blooms, it would slow the growth of dead zones that contaminate drinking water and suffocate aquatic life.
An interdisciplinary team of Nature Conservancy scientists, environmental economists and agriculture experts analyzed why soil health is one of the most crucial conservation issues today. They found that by improving soil health on more than half of U.S. soy, wheat and corn croplands, we could deliver up to $7.4 billion in environmental and economic benefits annually by 2025.
Let’s work together to improve soil health, strengthen nutrient management, and, in return, improve our country.