On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) introduced the Strengthening Our Investment in Land Stewardship Act (SOIL Stewardship Act) of 2018 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Through advancing critical reforms, this legislation enhances the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the two largest lands conservation programs in the Farm Bill.
“Maintaining our soil health is critical. Farmers are some of our best conservationists in this regard; it just makes good business sense,” Rep. Walz said. “By empowering our farmers and ranchers to continue to feed, fuel and clothe the world while maintaining the health of our resources, this commonsense bill benefits both the environment and the producer’s bottom line.”
The SOIL Stewardship Act of 2018 will empower farmers and ranchers to advance soil health by:
- Providing funding to ensure working lands conservation programs can support the growing demand for financial and technical conservation assistance
- Ensuring payments reflect the farmer investment and conservation benefits resulting from the adoption of key practices and programs
- Increasing program accessibility through better coordination between programs, while also encouraging higher levels of stewardship
- Increasing commitment and conservation support for historically underserved participants
The Land Stewardship Project and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition offered their support for the SOIL Stewardship Act:
“As a farmer, I know how important healthy soil is. I think the SOIL Stewardship Act strengthens working lands conservation programs like CSP (the Conservation Stewardship Program). These programs help everyone in many ways, such as improving water quality and holding soil on the farm – while farmers can still produce a crop. The focus of this Act is to both build soil health and improve the sustainability of our farms,” said Jon Jovaag, a farmer from Austin, Minn. and a Land Stewardship Project member.
“By investing in working lands conservation programs, the next farm bill can ensure that farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to maintain sustainable and productive operations long into the future,” said Alyssa Charney, Senior Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “The SOIL Stewardship Act offers a comprehensive strategy to improve and better coordinate our two largest working lands conservation programs, and builds upon the unique approaches and functions of each individual program. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition believes this bill to be the best blueprint for advancing soil health, clean water, and farm resilience and strongly supports its inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill.”
The SOIL Stewardship Act is the direct result of listening to Minnesota producers about the importance of protecting and expanding conservation programs that compensate farmers who allow some of their land to be used for agricultural conservation efforts. Across the First District, Rep. Walz has heard farmers voice their concerns about the lack of assistance they received in order to start initiatives for soil health, wildlife habitat, and organic farming. Walz crafted this legislation so that it works to resolve these concerns as well as make critical reforms to CSP and EQIP.
Today’s introduction of the SOIL Stewardship Act builds upon the momentum of Rep Walz’s push to ensure the next Farm Bill is truly a Farm Bill for the next generation. In November of 2017, Walz and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act in order to help the next Farm Bill better recruit and support the next generation of producers.
To learn more about how the SOIL Stewardship Act will provide assistance to farmers and ranchers advancing conservation, click here for the bill summary and here for a section-by-section outline of the legislation. For more information on how the Beginning Farmer and Ranch Opportunity Act will help new producers succeed, click here.