(Posted Thu. Jan 22nd, 2015)
The importance of soil health and what farmers are doing about it was communicated loud and clear at a meeting this week of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee.
Presenting on behalf of the National Corn Growers Association was Dr. Nicholas Goeser, who manages the Soil Health Partnership, administered by NCGA with financial support from Monsanto and The Walton Family Foundation and technical support from The Nature Conservancy.
“Soil health –the continued capacity to sustain plants, animals and humans – is important to a stable food supply and keeping farmers in business because, while the demand for agricultural products is increasing, farmland is not increasing,” Goeser said. “We have to be more efficient with our farmland.”
In his presentation, Goeser talked about how soil health can sustain higher yields, increase farmer profitability, build resilience to extreme weather and enhance the utilization and retention of nutrients for the crop. He noted that current soil health assessments are a great starting point to dig deeper, measuring how improvements in soil health can benefit farmers.
“We need more research to understand the economic components of adopting management practices to improve soil health,” Goeser said. “And we need more support for voluntary efforts to improve soil health, such as our farmer-driven Soil Health Partnership.”
Maryland corn farmer and NCGA President Chip Bowling serves on the federal advisory committee, and noted the importance of the meeting to help farmers make their concerns clear with the EPA.
“We’re happy to see that EPA has named a person to work specifically with the agriculture sector and wants to work more closely with us,” Bowling said. “As someone who has hosted EPA officials on my farm, I have seen first-hand the value of educating policymakers and Washington staff about on-farm practices. With programs like Soil Health Partnership, we’re discovering and spreading best practices for soil health, and it’s important that government officials are aware of this important work. When it comes to soil health, we hope EPA will look at its role as one of partnership with growers.”