Congressman Lawler introduces bill to improve soil health on farms

January 28, 2024

Mid Hudson News

WASHINGTON DC- Congressman Mike Lawler (R, NY-17) has introduced the Innovative Practices for Soil Health Act, legislation to improve soil health on farms and support sustainable alternatives to annual agriculture by improving federal conservation programs to ensure they are better able to support farmers who incorporate perennial systems and agroforestry into their operations.

The bill, which is supported by several House Democrats, would make improvements to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP); increasing technical assistance for farmers installing perennial systems; and designating four national and regional agroforestry centers.

Annual crops and monoculture cropping, common in farming, require tilling which disrupts the natural soil structure and can lead to increased erosion and a reliance on harmful fertilizers and pesticides.  Perennial and agroforestry systems require less soil disturbance improving soil structure, preventing erosion, increasing ecosystem nutrient retention, and promoting carbon sequestration.

“By supporting farmers in the utilization of perennial systems and agroforestry, the Innovative Practices for Soil Health Act encourages healthy soil management – improving overall farm productivity and stimulating microbial life,” said Lawler.“This is a win for farmers, a win for the environment, and a win for American families.”

Environmental groups, including Carbon 180, have come out in support of the bill.

This bill could unlock critical incentives for farmers and ranchers to implement carbon-storing practices like agroforestry and perennial systems,” said Carbon180 Deputy Director of Policy Cristel Zoebisch.  “By making targeted changes to federal conservation programs and expanding technical assistance for innovative, climate-friendly production systems, this bill would equip producers with the tools they need to activate their soils as carbon sinks and bolster resilience to weather extremes.”