Press Release: Gov. Signs Healthy Soils Legislation

New program would promote healthy soil practices among Maryland farmers

Annapolis, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation establishing the new Maryland Healthy Soils Program. House Bill 1063, sponsored by Del. Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), directs the Maryland Department of Agriculture to provide farmers with research, education, technical assistance, and — subject to available funding — financial assistance to improve soil health on Maryland farms. Studies show that healthy soil practices capture carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing numerous benefits to farmers, such as generating crops with greater yields and that are more drought resistant.

The Senate passed the bill passed unanimously, and it received a 137-1 vote in the House of Delegates. It is one of the first such state-sponsored programs in the United States. One of the program’s purposes is to increase biological activity and carbon sequestration by promoting practices based on emerging soil science that include planting mixed cover crops, adopting no till or low till farming and carefully managed rotational grazing.

“This new law — which is literally ground-breaking — will help the state reduce greenhouse gases 40 percent by 2030, a goal set by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan last year,” said Del. Stein. “Healthy soil can better absorb rainfall, lessen drought damage, reduce flooding and erosion, limit nutrient runoff and greatly reduce the impacts of climate change.”

A diverse group of stakeholders worked on legislation, including environmental and climate change advocates, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Farm Bureau.

“Healthy soils are important for growing crops and increasing yields and profitability for farmers,” said Colby Ferguson of the Maryland Farm Bureau. “The Maryland Healthy Soil Program will give more support to farmers to explore and adapt to lucrative new techniques, while also helping farmers to manage nutrient loads on their fields.”

“This legislation represents the shared values of both farmers and environmentalists, and shows what can happen when we work together toward a common goal,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and founder of the Fair Farms campaign.

“We all want to restore our waterways, and encouraging these types of soil practices will improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and our rivers and streams in many ways.”

Groups advocating for the new law included: Alice Ferguson Foundation, Biodiversity for a Livable ClimateCenter for Food Safety, Chesapeake Bay FoundationFair Farms, Future Harvest CASAMaryland Farm BureauMaryland Department of AgricultureMaryland Grain ProducersMaryland Pesticide Education NetworkOrganic Consumers Association, and Regeneration International.

The bill will go into effect on October 1, 2017.



Dawn Stoltzfus, The Hatcher Group, 410-990-0284