Across the nation, farmers, ranchers, and rural communities are finding that a key component to building a brighter future for rural America lies beneath our feet. Investments in soil health are creating more resilient food systems in the face of frequent extreme weather while reducing pollution in rivers and streams, and providing a long-term anchor for many rural economies.
Soil health, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, includes six indicators: organic matter recycling and carbon sequestration; soil structure stability; general microbial activity; carbon food source; bioavailable nitrogen; and microbial community diversity.
In generic terms, good soil health is defined by its ability to absorb water, retain nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and sequester carbon. Other measurements can include amounts of organic matter, depth of topsoil, and yield productivity.
In Nebraska’s state legislature, lawmakers are considering Legislature Bill 243, which would create a Healthy Soils Task Force. The Healthy Soils Task Force is a proactive effort that seeks to work with farmers, researchers, and conservation specialists to identify opportunities to improve land productivity and profitability, while also considering long-term agricultural viability.
Resiliency, stewardship, and economic prosperity resulting from healthier soils are key to growing a strong, deep-rooted future for our rural communities.