MFU part of diverse coalition for Farm Bill soil health pilot
“Soil health” has become a buzzword in agriculture. And for good reason: Healthy soil means healthier crops, bigger yields and even carbon emissions reduction.
That’s why MFU joined with the American Coalition for Ethanol, Environmental Entrepreneurs, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Corn Growers Association in advocating to include a pilot incentives program in the 2018 Farm Bill for soil health. Farmers who sign up would use methods such as no-till planting and cover crops, while measuring how much carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere because of this. From that measurement, the United States Department of Agriculture would pay the farmers would under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). It’s similar to a state program already established in California.
We were very pleased that this pilot program was included in the Farm Bill that has become law. It had the support of then-Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who is now Chair of the committee. We worked closely with Rep. Peterson’s staff on the language and thank him for this work.
In February, MFU President Gary Wertish traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with USDA staff and provide our input on implementation. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will oversee administration of the funds, as they already do with EQIP. Minnesota is challenged by weather cycles in using some conservation practices, but many producers already do. Our next steps are working with NRCS to determine things such as how many acres per state will be included and how it could work with different crops and soil types, as well as soil carbon building practices.
Agriculture should be a significant partner in our society’s work to mitigate climate change. Not only is this Soil Health Pilot a good place to start with that, we hope it will lead to a market where farmers can be paid for the added value of stored carbon in their land. If you are interested in this program or have any questions, please contact us.