April 22, 2021

Wyden Reintroduces Legislation to Improve Soil Health, Crop Resilience and Address the Climate Crisis

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today reintroduced legislation to help address the climate crisis by encouraging farming practices that improve soil health and crop resilience and lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere – with a strong focus on supporting the nation's small, rural and underserved farmers in this transition.

“Every day should be Earth Day, where we acknowledge the need for and prioritize climate action to protect our planet for future generations. Innovative farming techniques that both reduce carbon and make our crops more climate resilient are a must in this fight,” Wyden said. “Federal investments in this transition will be a win for our farmers and a win for our planet—all the more reason to make sure every farmer has the opportunity to participate.”

The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act builds on a 2018 Farm Bill provision authored by Wyden and creates a permanent soil health program through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program would provide $100 million to producers who adopt practices designed to improve soil health through increasing carbon levels in soil, prioritizing funding for underserved farmers. By promoting farming practices that capture carbon in soil, producers will improve soil health and crop resilience, while lowering the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

The bill establishes protocols for measuring soil organic carbon levels before and after these practices begin in order to determine which farming practices store the most carbon. This is critical because there is a significant need for more science and data to determine which conservation methods are most effective at storing carbon in the soil to improve soil health. 

The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act will also establish a Soil Health and Carbon Science Research Program at Agriculture Research Stations that would provide grants to land-grant colleges and universities to conduct research relating to soil health and carbon science and conduct research relating to soil health and carbon science at Agriculture Research Stations of the Department of Agriculture.

“We appreciate the important funding this legislation will bring to the Soil Health Demonstration Trial and to facilitating farmers’ efforts to improve soil health and soil carbon sequestration. This bill helps farmers to be part of the climate solution. That makes sense for our planet and for our economy,” Sandra Purohit, Director of Federal Advocacy for E2, said.

“Farmers and ranchers have an important and untapped role to play in the fight against climate change—and this bill allocates resources to get them more engaged, while making our food system more resilient,” Claire O’Connor, Director of Water & Agriculture at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), said. “This bill doesn’t just benefit the effort to curb the worst impacts of climate, but addressing soil health brings significant benefits to farming communities and the ecosystems surrounding them too.”

Bill text can be found here.