soil health

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

Innovative farmers and ranchers have, for generations, deliberately invested in building soil health. And this year — with the UN’s International Year of Soils and implementation of California's Healthy Soil Initiative well underway — we'll be pressing policymakers to turn innovation for healthy soil into standard practice.

The timing could not be better. Widespread implementation of practices that build and protect soil health is the only certain thing that will ensure farmers’ ability to both mitigate and adapt to worsening conditions associated with climate change. California's historic drought provides a dramatic case in point.

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

I’ve been an earthworm fan for decades. At my Oakland, California home I dump vegetable scraps into a big plastic bin with worms. Once or twice a year I collect incredibly rich worm compost, teaming with roly-poly bugs (isopods), worms — and billions of critters I can’t see. My garden plants love it, and it’s free.

In agricultural soils, worms (different kinds, but worms nevertheless) can contribute significantly to soil respiration with a direct and sharp increase in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released, as the number and length of worm canals increases. It turns out this soil respiration is critical to plant health.

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

The adage "we are what we eat" supports  food and nutrition education programs across the country. The same goes for the farm — production of an abundant diversity of healthy crops depends on healthy soil and crop management techniques.

Farmers aren't born knowing how to do this, they learn. They learn from each other, and through programs like USDA's new soil health initiative. This is why we're working hard to make sure the next Farm Bill is a strong one that supports innovative farmer education.

Pesticide Action Network's blog
By Pesticide Action Network,

Pop quiz:

Q1: What is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history?

Q2: What U.S. law provides the single largest source of federal funding for environmental conservation? 

Answers: The Dust Bowl and the Farm Bill. And these two facts have everything to do with one another. 

Margaret Reeves's blog
By Margaret Reeves,

Farmers who protect their soil using organic or other sustainable methods often encounter hurdles that other farmers do not. Current policies provide disproportionately little support for such farming practices depite the clear benefits — for the soil, the environment, human health and economic growth.

This week the U.S. Senate will have a chance to partially correct this by supporting Food and Farm Bill amendments that link crop insurance to sound farming practices. We know that good stewardship builds diverse agroecosystems that are inherently less risky than conventional sytems. Less risk with greater protection of soil and other natural resources? That's where I want my tax dollars to go.