Top Three Legislative Updates Regarding Soil as a Climate Solution: Federal, Legislative, Local (“lawns”)
By Steven Keleti, Karl Thidemann and Seth Itzkan
#1 – Federal: ensure that greater funding for regenerative agriculture and soil health programs is in the Farm Bill. The Senate version has provisions to better support soil health and carbon sequestration, while the House version does not. The provisions in the Senate version need to make it into the final version from conference committee. See, for example:
Good Soil Policy in Senate Farm Bill
June 13, 2018 Lara Bryant https://www.nrdc.org/experts/lara-bryant/good-soil-policy-senate-farm-bill
5 reasons why the Senate farm bill is a conservation powerhouse
By Callie Eideberg / Published: June 27, 2018
Conservation for Very Erodible Row Cropland Act of 2018 (COVER Act)
#2 – State: ensure that state legislatures have Healthy Soils legislation on their dockets and/or appropriations for increased funding for state soil health programs, which many soil and water conservation districts have. (Note: this is not yet happening, yet legislators could consider funding programs through a fee on fertilizers and/or pesticides, as over-application of fertilizers and pesticides adversely impact soil health, water quality, air quality, drought resilience and stormwater management.) Draft legislation exists for Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Massachusetts, Kansas, Colorado, Vermont and Oregon, and there is growing interest in several other states. California’s Healthy Soils Initiative is the strongest program thus far. Maryland passed a Healthy Soils bill, yet needs to determine a funding source. Oklahoma has had a small program since 2001. Hawaii funded a small study. New York funded a study toward a Carbon Farming bill. We can help connect people who are interested.
#3 – Local: lawns are the biggest “crop” in the United States, and there is growing interest in providing incentives for regenerative agriculture and/or urban habitat on residential properties. This comes up at meetings - “what can I do?” and "what can we do to encourage regenerative practices in residential areas?” In order to provide incentives, legislation at state level may be needed. Bills were filed in Massachusetts the last two sessions to create a local option to allow a revenue-neutral property tax exemption to provide an incentive, but the bills did not move forward.