The importance of soil health and what farmers are doing about it was communicated loud and clear at a meeting this week of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee.
Presenting on behalf of the National Corn Growers Association was Dr. Nicholas Goeser, who manages the Soil Health Partnership, administered by NCGA with financial support from Monsanto and The Walton Family Foundation and technical support from The Nature Conservancy. “Soil health -the continued capacity to sustain plants, animals and humans – is important to a stable food supply and keeping farmers in business because, while the demand for agricultural products is increasing, farmland is not increasing,” Goeser said. “We have to be more efficient with our farmland.”
In his presentation, Goeser talked about how soil health can sustain higher yields, increase farmer profitability, build resilience to extreme weather and enhance the utilization and retention of nutrients for the crop. He noted that current soil health assessments are a great starting point to dig deeper, measuring how improvements in soil health can benefit farmers.
“We need more research to understand the economic components of adopting management practices to improve soil health,” Goeser said. “And we need more support for voluntary efforts to improve soil health, such as our farmer-driven Soil Health Partnership.”
Maryland corn farmer and NCGA President Chip Bowling serves on the federal advisory committee, and noted the importance of the meeting to help farmers make their concerns clear with the EPA.
“We’re happy to see that EPA has named a person to work specifically with the agriculture sector and wants to work more closely with us,” Bowling said. “As someone who has hosted EPA officials on my farm, I have seen first-hand the value of educating policymakers and Washington staff about on-farm practices. With programs like Soil Health Partnership, we’re discovering and spreading best practices for soil health, and it’s important that government officials are aware of this important work. When it comes to soil health, we hope EPA will look at its role as one of partnership with growers.”
Census of Ag Analysis Provides Valuable Insight into Value of Industry to Elected Officials
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its analysis of statistics from the 2012 census of agriculture as they relate to Congressional districts. This document, which provides insight into the characteristics and value of farming and ranching operations each member of Congress represents, provides growers with key information to clearly document the importance of ag issues to the federal officials they elect.
“Agriculture acts as a consistent engine fueling America’s economy, and every farmer should ensure that his or her Congressional delegation understands the importance of the industry to their constituents,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling, who farms in Maryland. “We have all heard many times what a small portion of the population actively farms today, but it is important we fully realize the economic benefit we provide the broader economy. The information in this important document allows us to quantify our impact and, in turn, help our federal representatives appreciate the significance of the issues we face.”
The census of agriculture, which is conducted every five years, provides uniform, comprehensive data used by policymakers and media alike as they aim to better understand the practices, circumstances and impact of America’s farming and ranching industries. Offering a plethora of information on a wide variety of areas, this analysis can be used to show those who create the policies and regulations impacting farmers the scope of possible ramifications.
“NCGA membership hit many new records in 2014 due, in part, to the appreciation farmers have for our work on the Hill. Clearly, NCGA’s more than 42,000 members feel strongly about the need to have a voice in shaping legislation and regulation at the federal level,” said Bowling. “Yet, as constituents, we must each do our individual part to amplify the message until it rings through the halls of the Capitol. I urge every farmer to take a moment to look at this data and consider the estimable impact that they have in their own Congressional district. Then, I urge them to explain to the federal representation that they elect what they have found. Together, we can create incredible change, but we have to hold our officials accountable to the voters who send them to Washington.”