Soil is the foundation of agricultural productivity and sustainability, global food security and our rural economies.

Healthy soils not only lead to reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also improve crop yields, drought and flood tolerance, and air and water quality. The health of our soils is improved through farm management that increases soil organic matter and reduces reliance on fossil fuel-based inputs. 

Additional benefits that can come with improving soil health include:

  • Reduced use of chemical fertilizers
  • Improved air and water quality
  • Increased biodiversity and wildlife habitat
  • Increased water infiltration and retention
  • Reduced soil erosion
  • Improved soil fertility and plant health

State Healthy Soils Initiative

Recognizing the multiple benefits of well-managed soils, the state launched the Healthy Soils Initiative in 2015, a collaboration of state agencies and departments to promote the stewardship of soil health. A year later, the legislature funded the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), coordinated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), which offers producers incentives to adopt GHG-reducing soil health practices. CalCAN and our partners have been among the most consistent advocates for the program.

Eligible practices for funding (with additional practices under consideration) include:

  • Compost and mulch application
  • Cover cropping
  • Reduced tillage
  • Planting windbreaks, riparian buffers and hedgerows
  • Silvopasture

The program also funds demonstration projects to showcase these practices and accelerate their adoption through farmer-to-farmer education. Read more background on the Healthy Soils Program.

Related Bill History

CalCAN sponsored or played a lead role in the following related bills that passed and were signed into law.

AB 1532 (2012) — Introduced by Speaker John Perez, the bill includes sustainable agriculture as an eligible funding area for cap and trade investment. This has been a major funding source for CDFA’s HSP.

SB 1350 (2016) — Language from this Healthy Soils Bill, introduced by Senator Wolk, informed the budget bill SB 859 that established HSP in statute and mandated that the state fund more than anaerobic digesters in its efforts to reduce methane emissions from livestock operations.

AB 2377 (2018) — Authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, this bill funds technical assistance for farmers and ranchers seeking to transition to Climate Smart Agriculture practices through HSP and programs.

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