In 2020, Network members collectively engaged over 380 farmers in advancing soil health policies. They developed materials and held trainings for producers on policy advocacy and gathered input from farmers and their communities to better understand their priorities for healthy soils policies. Members and their farmer partners met with over 100 policymakers personally in hearings and individual meetings to communicate the importance of soil health, and hundreds through reports, written comments, and public testimony.
Network members continue to advance soil health policies and engage farmers and legislators in creative ways. Some of these projects are described below.
Dakota Resource Council of North Dakota is building a diverse coalition of healthy soil practitioners, producers new to soil health practices, tribal farmers and ranchers, and climate and soil health advocates. Together this coalition aims to cultivate legislative champions, develop campaigns, and ultimately pass producer-driven healthy soils policy initiatives.
Fair Farms Campaign of Waterkeepers Chesapeake in Maryland is developing concepts for a bill that will incentivize farmers to implement healthy soils practices. For this process, they will engage a diverse Farmer Advisory Council (FAC) to participate, key in developing effective and inclusive legislation, and in educating legislators on the policy initiative.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance continues work with the farmer-led Soil Health Caucus (SHC), hosting a series of virtual workshops aimed at SHC leadership development on the topics of racial equity and agricultural policy, the politics of soil health, and building power for the 2021 focus on SB 3462 – the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act.
Kansas Rural Center is building a cohort of farmers to refine and help advance HB 2640, a bill that proposes a tax incentive for those employing carbon farming practices. Utilizing survey methods, KRC will reach an even larger group of farmers to understand needs around farming for soil health.
Land Steward Project of Minnesota, having cultivated relationships with several soil health champion legislators, will focus on engaging farmers across the state to develop and advocate for comprehensive soil health legislation. Working with their Soil Health and Climate Organizing Committee, they will mobilize diverse rural communities through digital organizing, expanded partnerships with BIPOC organizations, and farmer leadership development.
Maine Farmland Trust will engage a four-member advisory council, comprised of farmers that represent the diversity of Maine’s agricultural sector, to advise them as they continue their shaping healthy soils recommendations to be considered in the state’s revised Climate Action Plan.
New Mexico Health Soil Working Group is redoubling efforts toward securing more funding for the New Mexico Healthy Soils Program, passed in 2019, and focused on building an equitable and healthy farming economy. The mini-grant will complement a study documenting the comprehensive economic value of this multi-benefits program, and will be used to develop diverse communications tools and engage farmers advocates during the 2021 legislative season.
NOFA-MA will build on their efforts last year engaging farmers in advocating for a comprehensive soil health bill, that successfully garmered strong interest among legislators. Building on the growing interest among farmers in policy advocacy, they will produce a written educational booklet for farmers that wish to get involved in policy advocacy. They will also develop a set of visually appealing case studies for legislators and general public, highlighting the value of supporting farmer innovation in healthy soils.
Northern Plains Resource Council of Montana is engaging farmer stakeholders in developing soil health legislation for 2021, ensuring that their voices about needs and implementation play an important role in the legislative process. The funds will help them conduct stakeholder meetings, and ensure farmer participation in healthy soils advocacy with the Governor, legislators, and the MT Department of Agriculture.
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), leading the process of developing an Ohio Healthy Soils Initiative (OSHI), will use the mini-grant to recruit, engage, and educate future farmer advocates from different regions of the state. The funds will also be used to produce a farmer-to-farmer webinar of case studies on the multiple benefits of healthy soils practices.
Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network is working to ensure that farmers’ voices are heard and heeded in the state’s new Climate Action Plan’s targets on agricultural soil carbon sequestration.
NOFA-NY, building on its success last year gaining strong and powerful voices in the state legislature, will use digital tools to train farmers in policy advocacy. They will then connect farmers to legislators – also using digital tools – in their continuing advocacy work for a Healthy Soils program for New York.
Vermont Coalition will continue engaging farmers in the state’s Payments for Ecosystems Services Working Group, while launching a parallel, farmer-led initiative that guarantees payment levels to farmers that are equitable and based on measured ecosystem improvement. They will also provide stipends and support to 15 BIPOC farmers and agriculture leaders with soil health expertise to engage in public policy discussions.