Pass the Mass. Healthy Soils Bill!

  • Soil loss is a major contributor to climate change; this program would provide guidance on proven ways to mitigate or even reverse carbon loss from soils.

  • Degraded soils make farmers more vulnerable to drought and floods, while healthy soils make them more resilient!

  • Healthy soils require less pesticides and less fertilizer.

  • Healthy soils are less prone to leeching and runoff, preserving watershed health.

A public hearing for this bill was held on May 14th, 2019 (a great sign of movement!). In addition to sending an email to your own legislators using this form, we are asking all supporters to submit testimony to the Agriculture and Environment Committee by May 28th. Committee staffer:

Please use this form to contact your state representative today to support the creation of a Mass. Healthy Soils Program

Farmers are on the frontline of climate change, and are the first to feel its impacts. Agricultural practices which promote healthy soils allow farmers to better withstand extreme weather events and can directly mitigate climate change by pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into the soil, where it directly benefits crop health. For the sake of our farmers and our climate, Massachusetts must invest in Healthy Soils Practices.

Along with several allied organizations, NOFA/Mass helped to draft a bill that would go a long way toward healthier soils and revitalized farms. If passed, this bill, “An Act to promote healthy soils and agricultural innovation within the Commonwealth” (S.438/H.873), two identical bills filed by Senator Jo Comerford and Rep. Paul Schmid III, respectively), would:

1) Create a Healthy Soils Program within the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water and Related Resources, which shall, subject to the availability of funds, seek to optimize climate benefits while supporting the economic viability of agriculture in the commonwealth by providing incentives, including loans, grants, research, technical assistance, educational material on healthy soils practices.

2) Add an expert on Healthy Soils Practices to the Mass. Food Policy Council

*Read/print a PDF fact sheet on the Healthy Soils Bill, here.

UPDATE (5/14/19): Senator Comerford has introduced a Senate Budget amendment #907 for $190,950 to fund a Healthy Soils pilot program. The budget amendment is based an estimate from NOFA/Mass for a healthy soils program. The program includes funding for cover crops, additional carbon-farming inputs, equipment, testing, technical support, data collection, data management, education, and administration. The results of this program are crucial to expanding the benefits of healthy soils practices in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast.

Senators will be debating the budget during the week of May 20th.

Please ask your Senator to cosponsor Sen. Comerford's Healthy Soils amendment, #907!

DO you represent a farm or organization? Please add your farm or organization to the growing list of endorsers (click here).

Support for the Mass. Healthy Soils Bill is growing!

  • As of March 2019, the Healthy Soils Bill has the support of 75 legislative cosponsors (that’s more than 37% of the legislature)!

  • Demonstrating a broad and diverse coalition of support from organizations, farms and businesses across the Commonwealth will help legislators prioritize this bill for passage this session.

  • A public hearing for this bill has been scheduled for May 14th, 2019 at 1pm. We are asking all supporters to submit testimony to the Agriculture and Environment Committee. Committee staffer:

Thank you:

For taking action today on the Healthy Soils Budget Amendment,

For endorsing the Mass. Healthy Soils Bill,

And for passing this action alert on to your networks!

Background: What are the benefits of healthy, carbon-rich soils?

The benefits of healthy soils are not limited to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Healthy soils also:

Hold more water- Healthy soils essentially act as a sponge—they retain moisture better in times of low rainfall and can hold more when rainfall is high, reducing risk of flooding to nearby lowlands. An 1% increase in soil organic matter on just one acre enables the land to hold an additional 20,000 gallons of water.

Reduce run-off- That same sponge-like quality allows soils to naturally resist erosion. Also, healthy soils can both chemically and biologically hold more nutrients, meaning they retain more of the fertilizers applied. This reduces downstream pollution, which can impact watershed health in many ways including dangerous algae blooms, contaminated drinking water, and other biological disruptions.

Require less fertilizer- The abundant soil life in healthy soils provides much of the nutritional needs for crops. Fungi and bacteria have coevolved with plants to provide essential nutrients by extracting them from the organic and geological components of the soil in exchange for carbon (in the form of sugars).

Result in better, healthier crops- Healthy soils provide a steady drip of fertility and moisture, instead of the deluge and dirth cycles common in today’s agricultural systems. Healthy plants are able to photosynthesize more effectively, and are able to produce the necessary metabolites that defend them from disease and pests. In short, healthy soils grow healthier plants, which need less pesticides.

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