A Healthy Farm Starts with Healthy Soils
Soil is the very foundation of life on farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls it “a living and life-giving substance.” More than just dirt – it is a complex mixture of minerals, organic material and nutrients. Fertile, healthy soil is vital to grow the wholesome farm foods we depend on. Soil is also incredibly important to climate change – healthy soils capture carbon and prevent it from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse gas effect that is warming our planet.
Much like we must tend to our own personal health if we hope to lead long, fulfilling lives, we must also tend to the health of our soil to preserve and protect it now and in the future. Many factors can damage our farm soil, such as harsh chemicals or over-tilling.
During the 2017 General Assembly Session, Maryland passed first-of-its kind legislation to incentivize farming practices that contribute to healthy soils. The legislation defined “healthy soils” as the continuing capacity of soil to:
- function as a biological system
- increase soil organic matter
- improve soil structure and water and nutrient holding capacity; and
- sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The new Maryland Healthy Soils Program, supported by the state Department of Agriculture, is charged with providing these incentives, such as education, technical assistance and funding, to farmers in order to help them implement farm management practices that contribute to healthy soils and capture carbon.
Fair Farms advocated strongly for the legislation and celebrated the bill’s passage. But, there’s more work to be done. There is no funding allocated for the program and it does not yet have a clear directive. Fair Farms is committed to staying engaged with our partners to bring the vision of this legislation to reality and work with state agencies on this exciting new program.
For Maryland to truly protect our vital farm soils and combat climate change, we must ensure that we incentive proven practices that are sustainable and meaningful. This is why Fair Farms is part of a new collaborative project the Million Acre Challenge.
Projects & Priorities
- Fair Farms Interview Series: Maryland Delegate Dana SteinWritten by Susan Webb Delegate Dana Stein is a strong advocate for the environment. As Chair of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Open Space subcommittee, Del. Stein oversees legislation affecting Chesapeake Bay fisheries, farming, hunting regulations, and land preservation. He has also served as Vice Chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee since 2015, influencing the ...
- Thank you for making these legislative wins possible!In order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the Maryland General Assembly decided to adjourn a few weeks early, on March 18th. We’re thankful that our elected officials acted quickly to protect public health, while also accomplishing a tremendous amount in a short period of time. Thanks to their steadfastness, and your vocal advocacy, ...
- Help Maryland Farmers Fight Climate ChangeTake Action to support the creation of the Maryland Healthy Soils Grant Program (HB1176)! This program would make grants available for voluntary projects that increase carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions on farms throughout Maryland. The program would promote dozens of wide-ranging practices that are known to build soil health and sequester carbon—ensuring that farmers ...
- Take Action: Expand Maryland’s Cost-Share ProgramTake Action Now to support the expansion of the Maryland Agriculture Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program (HB687/SB597)! Maryland spends approximately $30 million per year for conservation measures on farms. About 80% of these funds pay for “annual” management practices while payments for cost-effective, longer term practices like pastures and forest buffers are drastically reduced. Farmers interested ...
- Fair Farms Legislative Priorities for 2020With a new year comes new priorities for the Fair Farms campaign to focus on in the Maryland state legislature. We hope that you will be an involved participant in the legislative process this session. Write and call your legislators, submit testimony, and support bills by talking with family and friends and encouraging them to ...