July 27, 2023

Wyden, Salinas, Bonamici, Casten Introduce Legislation to Improve Soil Health, Crop Resilience and Address the Climate Crisis

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Representatives Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Sean Casten, D-Ill., today introduced 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.

“America’s farmers are essential to the economy, and in the climate fight. Right now, farmers in Oregon and around the country are on the frontlines innovating new soil health practices to capture carbon and improve crop outcomes – adding up to a healthier climate and a boost to rural communities,” said Wyden. “Making these investments is a win for our farmers and a win for our planet.”

“Whether you’re a blueberry farmer in Oregon or a cattle rancher in Nebraska, healthy soils are essential to your success,” said Salinas. “Unfortunately, the climate crisis is fueling extreme weather that threatens the soil quality of farmers’ working lands and, by extension, their farms’ viability. Farmers across the U.S. are well-aware of this worrying trend, and many of them are eager to adopt innovative soil health practices to bolster their land’s resiliency and reduce carbon emissions. The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act will reward farmers already implementing meaningful soil health practices and encourage new adopters by expanding existing incentives that are proven to promote on-farm resilience. Advancing soil health will safeguard not only the viability of individual farms, but the long-term future of our food system and our planet.”

“Farmers rely on healthy soil to grow crops and feed our communities,” said Bonamici. “Encouraging agricultural methods that absorb carbon in soil will not only increase soil health and crop resilience, but also reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. I am glad to join my colleagues to support our farmers by increasing access to proven strategies that promote healthy soil. Building on the success of this program from the 2018 Farm Bill is increasingly important as we face more extreme weather and a changing climate, and has the benefit of incorporating sustainable farming practices that reduce carbon.”

“Supporting our farmers in building strong and healthy soil across the United States will safeguard our food and agricultural system against the climate crisis by bolstering land resiliency, reducing erosion, and maintaining vital nutrients,” said Casten. “I’m proud to join Senator Wyden, Rep. Salinas, and Rep. Bonamici in introducing the Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act to both improve soil health and lower the amount of carbon in the atmosphere at the same time.”

The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act – which Wyden first introduced in 2021 – 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 funding 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 bill would also provide funding to expand the On-Farm Trials for soil health through EQIP’s Conservation Innovation Grants. These projects support widespread adoption and evaluation of practices that producers can implement 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.

Bill text can be found here.

"Improving our soils through healthy, organic farming practices is a complex, multi-year effort that yields significant ongoing rewards to our annual food production,” Willamette Valley, Oregon, farmer, and Managing Partner of Farmland LP, Craig Wichner. By providing access to research, technical experts, and financial support to explore new practices, the Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act reduces risks and benefits farmers, consumers, and our state agriculture research institutions."

“We want to thank Senator Wyden and Representatives Salinas, Bonamici, and Casten for championing the Healthy Soils, Healthy Climate bill,” said Nicole Lederer, Chair and Co-founder of E2. “This bill promotes innovation, cutting-edge research on carbon and soil health and greater economic resilience for farmers. It is a win for rural America and for our economy and environment more broadly.” 

“The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate bill supports game-changing soil health practices that are turning working farms into in-field laboratories of the future,” said Matthew Kaplan, Deputy Director, Federal Affairs Water and Agriculture. “Healthy Soils Healthy Climate will help farmers innovate toward climate resilience. Representatives Salinas, Bonamici and Casten and Senator Wyden have shown important leadership as Congress writes the 2023 Farm Bill. “

Click here for additional statements in support of the Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act.