We all depend on healthy soil and clean water. We also owe our children and grandchildren a stable climate and a livable planet. These two issues come together for me in the 100% Soil Healthy Farming bill I’ve authored that will have a hearing this week in the Agriculture Committee in the Minnesota House.
This bill will protect soil and water, save farmers money, and help us meet our climate goals as a state.
Minnesota is clearly getting warmer and wetter due to climate change. Since we began keeping records in Minnesota in the late 1800s, the 10 warmest and wettest years in Minnesota history have all happened since 1997. Farmers talk with me regularly about how the weather is changing, and how they see heavier rains pounding their soil.
Flooding is an intensifying concern. Northfield is just one example. In just the last 10 years, the Cannon River has damaged the community with three 500 year floods. Whether it’s the Mississippi, the Minnesota, or the Cannon River, more water needs to be held back on the land.
This bill incentivizes soil health building practices in agriculture. More and more farmers are experimenting with practices like cover crops, perennial crops, and conservation tillage, and they are seeing dramatic benefits in increased organic matter, improved water quality, and greater ability for their soils to retain water. States like Maryland and Indiana have strong incentives in place for these practices, and they are far ahead of us in farmer adoption of these practices. My bill will put similar incentives in place.
These practices are good for a farmer’s bottom line. Healthier soil is more productive, more resilient, and with these practices, over time, farmers can reduce their fertilizer use and fuel costs.
A study by the Nature Conservancy has shown that Minnesota can sequester 26 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking seven coal plants offline annually, by focusing on what are called Natural Climate Solutions: reforestation, protecting and restoring wetlands, and implementing soil health building practices in agriculture. They estimate that, in Minnesota, cover cropping alone has the potential to sequester 6 million metric tons of CO2.
Farmers who have been using these practices often tell me, “I didn’t get into this because I was an environmentalist. I gave it a try because I heard I could save money. But, I’ve been amazed by the differences I’ve seen in my soil. And now I can see how farmers can be a part of the climate solution.”
We need solutions that increase our resilience in the face of our climate challenges. We also need solutions that can help us find the difference we can make in this shared struggle. I hear farmers talking with one another about the contribution they can make. It gives me hope.
The 100% Soil Healthy Farming Bill is good for farmers and the climate. It responds to the challenge of protecting our soils, and that is good for all of us.