New State Program to Build Healthy Soils, Climate Resilience
(BOSTON, MA)- Massachusetts farmers, land owners and managers will soon have the support of a new Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program to implement healthy soils practices on their properties, with measures which will improve climate resilience, water quality and farm viability. In a move celebrated by dozens of agricultural, climate and environmental groups, on January 14th, 2021, Governor Baker approved the Healthy Soils Amendment to the Economic Development bill passed by the legislature in the final hours of the 2019-20 session.
This healthy soils legislation creates a fund and a program to provide education, technical assistance, and financial incentives to farmers and land managers who utilize healthy soil practices such as no-till or low-till farming, cover crops and other practices which reduce the need for synthetic inputs and increase resilience to extreme weather events. The program promotes practices which increase the soil’s ability to draw carbon out of the atmosphere in an effort to mitigate further climate destabilization.
The passage of the Healthy Soils Amendment is the culmination of years of organizing by a coalition of over three dozen agricultural, environmental and climate advocacy groups and farms across the Commonwealth, led by the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA/Mass).
“The creation of this program comes as the state is also about to finalize its first roadmap for healthy soils, the Healthy Soils Action Plan, another project which we at NOFA/Mass had the honor of helping to create,” says Marty Dagoberto, Policy Director for NOFA/Mass. “We are working with our legislative champions and the administration to support the implementation of this program without delay.”
Massachusetts Senator Jo Comerford and Representative Paul Schmid, co-chairs of the Food System Caucus, championed passage of the Healthy Soils Amendment. They helped elevate awareness of soil solutions among their peers in the State House, and shepherded the bill through the labyrinthine legislative process.
“Healthy soils means less CO2 in the atmosphere, increased earnings for farmers, and more fresh local produce available to feed the people of our Commonwealth,” said Sen. Comerford. “With passage of this legislation, our Commonwealth takes another important step towards supporting our farmers, boosting food security, and valuing the carbon sequestration potential of our working lands.”
“Establishing a Healthy Soils Program in Massachusetts has been a priority of farmers and as an extension of them, my office, for several sessions now,” said Rep. Schmid. “It is gratifying to see this become law and exciting to know the possibilities and opportunities it brings to our agriculture and horticulture industries. Healthy soils benefit our economy, our environment, and our food system. I look forward to following in the footsteps of the other states currently employing these practices.”
“Passage of this bill is a great step toward several of the recommendations in the Massachusetts Local Food Action plan,” commented Winton Pitcoff, Director of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative, who helped spearhead the legislative push. “The state’s commitment to promoting healthy soils will help build farm sustainability, in turn supporting farmers in contributing to climate change mitigation, contributing to the local economy, protecting natural resources, and feeding the Commonwealth with fresh, nutritious, local foods.”
“Thanks also go to the thousands of residents who contacted their legislators to pass this bill,” Dagoberto said. “But this is just the beginning. We need to keep speaking for the soils!”
About NOFA/Mass: As a member-funded non-profit organization, NOFA/Mass (Northeast Organic Farmers Association/Massachusetts Chapter) promotes organic agriculture through education and advocacy to expand the production and availability of nutritious food from living soil for the health of individuals, communities and the planet. NOFA/Mass is one of seven NOFA chapters, including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. https://www.nofamass.org/