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Soil Health Policy: Developing Community-Driven State Soil Health Policy and Programs

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Soil health provides critical ecosystem services related to water quality, drought resilience, erosion prevention, crop yields, and carbon sequestration. These benefits - and the practices used to achieve them - vary by region, so state programs are uniquely positioned to support the local soil health work of farmers and ranchers. In California, Colorado, and New Mexico, state policy has established programs to support agricultural producers implementing soil health practices. In other states, such as Illinois, soil health programs are used by state agencies and conservation districts to achieve goals such as nutrient pollution reduction. Soil health is an inherently cooperative goal, in which environmentalists, regulators, and farmers can all find common ground. Across the country, community groups are calling for the creation of soil health programs in their states.

In response to this growing demand, the Soil Health Policy guidebook provides practical advice for anyone who is interested in developing community-driven, state-level soil health policy or programs. Readers will learn how to build an effective and inclusive soil health coalition, logistics to help mobilize a coalition, steps to develop a soil health policy or program, and funding opportunities. The approach presented within the guidebook is drawn from interviews with over 30 experts, including farmers, ranchers, academics, scientists, funders, state agency staff, and nonprofit organization staff. Each state has its own policy and agricultural context, so the reader is encouraged to utilize the recommendations that fit their own circumstances. Case examples through the guidebook highlight the best practices identified by soil health policy experts.

This guidebook was produced as part of The Yale Center for Business and the Environment’s ongoing Regenerative Agriculture Initiative.

Published November 2021

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Darya Wecker (Watnick)

Sustainable Agriculture Specialist at The Nature Conservancy
Master of Environmental Management 2021

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