Policy Proposals to Build Soil Health and Combat Climate Change: A Federal and 50-State Landscape Analysis

Authors: Samantha Eley*, Union of Concerned Scientists, Marcia DeLonge, Union of Concerned Scientists, Rafter Ferguson, Union of Concerned Scientists
Topics: Soils, Environment, Land Use
Keywords: soil health, climate change, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, forestry
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download

There is growing interest in the potential for farmers and communities to benefit from investments in soil health. Potential benefits include improvements in farm productivity, water quality, and climate resilience, but multiple barriers prevent farmers from adopting practices that support soil health. In response, various policy proposals have emerged to provide additional incentives for farmers to adopt practices proven to increase soil carbon, reduce erosion, and improve water movement through soil.

To understand the landscape of US soil health policy, we conducted an analysis of federal and state legislation passed or introduced over the past four years. For the federal analysis, we entered combinations of keywords such as “soil health,” “carbon sequestration,” and “climate” into the Congress.gov advanced search platform. For the state analysis, we entered similar search terms into the Bloomberg Government state legislation search engine; additional resources included online summaries of state efforts. Using a content analysis approach, we grouped bills by scope, including issue categories such as soil health, climate change, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, and forestry.

Our search identified 131 federal bills and 184 state bills introduced, with multiple bills in California (37), Hawaii (20), Minnesota (14), Vermont (13), Iowa (11), Massachusetts (10), and New York (9). Concepts reflected in the largest number of bills included soil health (81 bills), carbon sequestration (55 bills), and soil conservation (15 bills). Overall, we found a wide, growing field of healthy soils policies, suggesting the need for continued research to inform best practices.

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