Soil health is defined as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans” (USDA NRCS). In the United States, we lose approximately 996 million metric tons of soil to erosion and 4.4 billion pounds of nutrient degradation on agricultural lands every single year. Regenerative agriculture promotes the improvement of natural resources through agricultural principles and practices, many of which increase soil health. Healthy soils hold nutrients and soil moisture, promote nutrient cycling, support ecosystem biodiversity, and sequester carbon. These benefits are important to a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including agricultural producers, conservation organizations, water managers, and climate organizations.
The creation of strong healthy soil and regenerative agriculture legislation across the country supports the on-the-ground work of farmers and practitioners and enables the adoption and implementation of regenerative practices that are better for soil health than conventional agricultural practices. Several states already have or are in the process of creating policies to support and advance soil health management practices, including California, New Mexico, and Colorado. Coalitions in other states, such as Nebraska, Montana, and Kansas, are interested in building on the work of successful collaboratives. Our project team will conduct interviews with a variety of experts in coalition-building, soil health, funding, stakeholder engagement and more to explore best practices for creating community-driven soil health policy or programs at the state. These findings will be compiled into a practical guidebook outlining the potential pathways and resources available to the broad range of stakeholders interested in soil health.
In November 2021, this research culminated in the release of the guidebook Soil Health Policy: Developing Community-Driven State Soil Health Policy and Programs.
This new resource provides practical advice for developing community-driven, state-level soil health policy and programs.