28 U.S. STATES DEBATE HEALTHY SOIL INITIATIVES
Twenty-eight legislatures in the United States are debating healthy soil initiatives this year, indicating that the US, actually the world’s biggest agricultural producer, cannot escape the serious issue of land becoming less fertile due to practices that limit its productivity and sustainability, Kelley Griffin reported for Modern Farmer, an American trade journal.
In her article “The Fight Over Healthy Soil,” Griffin said the issue revolves around the proper use of topsoil to protect against the effects of climate change, with traditional US farm practices stripping nutrients from the soil and not replacing them.
Scientists say this is getting worse as climate change brings deeper droughts and more intense rainstorms that flush away topsoil. One recent study estimated that 35 percent of the farmland in the Corn Belt has no healthy topsoil left.
Other areas are thinning dramatically. While soil is falling victim to climate change, it also has the capacity to help head it off because soil naturally captures and stores carbon.
“States are eyeing the Agriculture Resilience Act, first introduced in Congress in 2020 and reintroduced this session. It’s a sweeping measure that aims to achieve net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040, with a big focus on soil health. It would provide grants to states that have enacted and funded some form of a healthy soils program, and it provides another incentive for states to adopt these measures. It didn’t get a hearing its first year, mostly due to the pandemic. But this year it includes a sponsor in the Democratic-controlled Senate,” Griffin wrote.
Separately, the Biden administration is working on a plan to leverage soil’s carbon-storing capacity to help address climate change. Farmers who implement healthy soil strategies could get credits for the carbon they are trapping in soil, and sell those credits to polluters to offset their carbon emissions.
Advocates for soil health point out that not only can these practices help with carbon capture, but they are also good for farming overall.
They note that a single teaspoon of the good stuff has more microorganisms than there are people on the earth.
That includes a billion bacteria of various kinds, fungi threads, nematodes and microscopic insects. Crops thrive in that kind of soil. Several studies have shown best practices for soil health increase farm productivity and income while limiting erosion.