Washington, D.C. - October 12, 2023 (www.waternewswire.com) On National Farmers Day, the dire state of American soil gains increased attention with the introduction of a new bill, the Soil CARE Act.
In the House, Representative Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06) led the introduction of the Soil Conservation and Regeneration Education (Soil CARE) Act; a Senate version (S. 3023) was introduced last week on October 4 by Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both of Oregon. This introduction comes on the heels of a number of other soil health-focused bills, including H.R. 5500, the Peer Learning for Agriculture Conservation Education (PLACE) Act introduced by Representative Marc Molinaro (R-NY-26) in September and the Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act (S. 2603), introduced by Senator Ernst (R-IA) and co-sponsored by Senators Heinrich (D-NM), Marshall (R-KS), and Klobuchar (D-MN) in July.
Together, these bills are cornerstones of the Regenerate America™ farm bill platform, which aims to support farmers and ranchers in adopting regenerative practices that would help reverse the loss of 4.6 tons of topsoil erosion per acre every year.
The Soil CARE Act directs the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish an education program to train staff and technical service providers (TSPs) on biological soil health management, including organic, agroecological, and regenerative practices.
"As climate chaos continues to make the West hotter and dryer, it's important our farmers, ranchers, and land stewards have the resources and tools needed to keep their lands adaptable and resilient. This bill is a necessary step in keeping supporting farmers and ranchers across America."
-Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
"As we continue to suffer the effects of extreme weather in Oregon, it's critical that our local farmers and producers have the tools they need to adapt. That includes helping them implement the latest regenerative agriculture and soil health management practices. This legislation will ensure USDA personnel and third-party service providers are properly trained and equipped to help producers rebuild degraded lands and increase profitability and resilience."
-Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06)
The PLACE Act adjusts the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to allow for the use of funding to facilitate farmer-to-farmer peer learning, with a focus on soil health and NRCS conservation programs.
"Soil conservation is not just essential for the long-term viability of our farmland; it's a cornerstone of our environmental stewardship. Unfortunately, we recognized there's a gap in federal support for educating and implementing these crucial practices. My bipartisan bill will cut red tape and help more farmers gain the help they need to implement conservation strategies on the ground."
-Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19)
The Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act will help ensure farmers and researchers have a greater say in what types of practices USDA supports and will help farmers adopt innovative, regionally-applicable practices that regenerate soil.
"Regenerative agriculture and soil health practices help farmers and producers make their working lands more resilient, something that is widely wanted and needed. As Congress negotiates the next farm bill, Republicans and Democrats agree that we must update the process for developing new conservation practice standards at the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and make that process more transparent and accessible for all."
-Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Kiss the Ground, a non-profit that promotes regenerative agriculture as a solution for the climate, water, and health crisis, has pushed for greater government investment into the issue of soil health. Having entered the area of advocacy and policy just last year as the backbone organization of Regenerate America™, a coalition-driven grassroots campaign to ensure greater support for regenerative agriculture in the farm bill, Kiss the Ground is pleased to see these bills receive bipartisan support - the campaign uses the tagline "Soil Is Our Common Ground."
"Kiss the Ground and the Regenerate America coalition are grateful to have worked with these Congressional offices to develop policies that will support farmers & ranchers across the country to rebuild soils by providing much-needed investments in programs that will help them transition to regenerative practices. With this support, producers will be able to not only increase their profits, but also increase biodiversity, improve water quality and quantity, and adapt to extreme weather events-all while growing healthier, nutrient-dense food."
-Finian Makepeace, Kiss the Ground Co-Founder
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) last year saw nearly $20 billion allocated for USDA conservation programs, a significant and much-needed investment of funds into USDA programming that is historically underfunded and oversubscribed. With the inclusion of Soil CARE, PLACE, and Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Acts in the farm bill, farmers and ranchers seeking to implement conservation practices and programs would be able to receive quality support from the federal government as well as each other on context-appropriate practices to improve on-farm soil quality and whole ecosystem health.
These bills pave the way for a brighter future for American agriculture and our environment. By equipping stakeholders with knowledge, fostering collaboration, and investing in regenerative practices, these bills will contribute to a thriving and resilient U.S. agricultural landscape.
About Kiss the Ground
Kiss the Ground is an audience-supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit promoting regeneration and healthy soil as a viable solution for our climate, wellness, and water crisis. Since 2013, the organization has inspired millions to participate in the Regenerative Movement through storytelling, education, and partnerships.
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