Fund the Healthy Soils Program - For Healthy Communities and a Healthy Climate!

Healthy Soils for Healthy Communities, Climate and Environmental Justice!

Healthy Soils for:

Food Justice - As we face the continued threat of the novel coronavirus, we are reminded that healthy soils are required in order to produce the truly healthy nutrient dense foods needed to support a robust human microbiome and strong immune system. This pandemic and other public health threats disproportionately impact communities of color. We must scale out healthy soils practices so that everyone has access to nutrient dense food.

Environmental Justice - The environmental benefits of healthy soils practices address challenges disproportionately impacting communities of color: greening urban spaces, reducing pesticide exposure to farmworkers, reducing water pollution, mitigating stormwater runoff and directly addressing the climate crisis.

Climate Justice - 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. We have a moral responsibility to implement these readily available strategies for addressing climate change.

UPDATE, 03/26/20 - Representative Schmid, House lead on the successful Healthy Soils Bill (passed in January), is now submitting a $160K budget appropriation request to fund the new program. We need YOU healthy soils advocates to ask their legislators to support this budget appropriation.

Use this form to THANK your legislator for voting to create the Mass. Healthy Soils Program and ask for their support for upcoming budget appropriations to fund it! (Personal emails and phone calls will maximize your impact, but we also include this form to make it easy.)

The healthy soils legislation creates a fund and a program to provide education, technical assistance, and financial incentives to farmers and land managers to utilize healthy soil practices, thereby improving soil health throughout the Commonwealth while supporting farmers and promoting sustainability. Healthy soil practices include no-till or low-till farming, use of cover crops, reduction in synthetic fertilizer and more.

The timing is perfect, as the state is also about to finalize its first roadmap for healthy soils, the Healthy Soils Action Plan, another project which we at NOFA/Mass had the honor of helping to create. The next step will be to seek budget appropriations to fund the program during the upcoming budget season.

The full text of the original bill which created the program and fund can be viewed here:

A fact sheet on the original bill with more talking points, here:

The Mass. healthy Soils Program, once funded, will help us better adapt to the shocks of worsening climate destabilization as well as help mitigate further impacts, while improving crop quality and quantity and farmer bottom lines.

Here are the full details and background on the FY22 budget appropriation request.

Special thanks to the MA Food System Collaborative for including this budget item in their slate of budget requests for FY22.

We are grateful to this growing coalition of climate activists, water protectors and agricultural advocates which continues to grow in support of the Healthy Soils Program: 350 Lowell node, American Farmland Trust, Berkshire Grown, Biodiversity for a Liveable Climate, Bionutrient Food Association, Boston Catholic Climate Movement, Central Mass Grown, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), Climate Action Business Association, Cooper Shop Farm, Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Elders Climate Action Massachusetts, Endever Agriculture Group, LLC, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Find the Good and Braise It, Franklin County CDC, Grow Food Northampton, HealthLink, Island Grown Initiative, Lexington Community Farm Coalition, Long Life Farm, Mass Assoc. of Conservation Districts, Mass. Audubon, Mass. Food System Collaborative, Massachusetts Forest Alliance, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Mothers Out Front, Mystic River Watershed Association, New England Farmers Union, New England Small Farm Institute, Ocean River Institute, Pioneer Valley Biochar Initiative (PVBI), Regeneration Massachusetts, Shared Harvest CSA, Sierra Club Massachusetts, Soil4Climate, South Meadow Farm & Research Center, Sustainable Business Network, The Trustees, The Carrot Project, The Garden Artist, The Nature Conservancy, Western Mass. Climate Action Now, Wright-Locke Farm

Organizations may endorse the Healthy Soils Program by filling out this form.

Thank you for taking action today to fund the Mass. Healthy Soils Program and for passing this action alert on to your networks!

Extended 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-  Science shows that the greater diversity of organisms in the soil, the greater nutrient profile of the soil. Well-nourished soil will grow plants with optimal nutrient profiles. If animals and people eat those plants, they will have greater micronutrient intake. Just like plants, animals, and humans, soils need to be fed in order to keep the vibrant and diverse community of organisms alive.

The full text of the bill can be viewed here:

A fact sheet on the bill with more talking points, here:

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