House Ag subcommittee holds hearing on soil health


The House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee held a hearing today focused on the financial and environmental benefits of efforts to maintain and improve soil health on the nation’s farms and ranches.

During the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., heard from producers and researchers about the economic and risk-mitigation benefits of successful soil health practices.

In her opening statement, Spanberger also discussed how soil conservation continues to grow in popularity across central Virginia. Between 2012 and 2017, Virginia experienced a 35%-plus increase in cropland acres planted with cover crops. Additionally, more than 1 million acres of cropland in Virginia are being farmed with no-till practices.

“Healthy soil is one of our country’s most vital natural resources, and American crop and livestock producers are on the front lines of the effort to reduce erosion and increase fertility. But this ongoing effort also presents a significant upside for farmers’ bottom lines,” Spanberger said after the hearing.

“Through voluntary soil conservation practices, farmers can often lower their input costs, increase their yields, and make sure their fields are productive for generations to come.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., the subcommittee ranking member, said he was “particularly proud of this committee’s work on conservation programs in the newly enacted farm bill. We came together in a bipartisan fashion to reauthorize and strengthen our Title II programs.”

During the hearing a range of producers and researchers talked about the economic and risk-mitigation benefits of successful soil health practices

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, noted that soil conservation amounts to “derisking” in agriculture, and said she wants to be sure that crop insurance and conservation are connected.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, asked whether large industrial farmers are participating in conservation efforts as much as smaller farmers.

Shefali Mehta, the executive director of the Soil Health Partnership, said that there are “not enough” big farmers in their program, but that she believes that free market mechanisms that can encourage soil health will appeal to them.

Soil Health Partnership is a program of the National Corn Growers Association in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, Bayer (formerly Monsanto), and the Environmental Defense Fund that works with 220 farmers.


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