ST. PAUL — Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Executive Director John Jaschke, state agency leaders, state soil health specialist Dr. Anna Cates and Wabasha County farmer Matt Tentis today made a public appeal to the legislature to pass a $5.5 million funding proposal (HF936/SF1036) to support soil health initiatives in Minnesota.
“Here in Minnesota, we know what needs to be done to improve our soil health – and we have skilled local government staff ready to assist farmers with implementing cover crops and related practices,” Jaschke said. “The challenge we face is a need for additional funding and support to farmers who are interested in modifying their operations to include these soil health practices. With the legislative session approaching its end, now is the time to act.”
Cover crops and related soil health practices have the potential to make agricultural landscapes more resistant to climate change and severe weather events. They help reduce erosion, benefiting water quality by keeping sediment out of our streams, rivers and lakes.
“As our climate changes and severe weather events become more common, proactive measures are needed to mitigate erosion from our farmlands,” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop explained. “Cover crops offer multiple benefits to water quality, soil health, climate resiliency and increased productivity.”
Cover crops can benefit farmers by increasing soil biodiversity, which can increase productivity and crop yields over time. But startup costs remain a barrier.
“Our farmers already take many risks to grow our food and support their own families,” Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “Additional funding for cover crops, including direct financial assistance to landowners, will help decrease the risks we’re asking landowners to take by trying something new on their farms.”
Learn more about this proposal and the need for robust soil health funding in our media kit.
Additional support for $5.5 million funding request:
LeAnn Buck, Executive Director, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
“Healthy soil is key to positively impacting all areas of our environment. By implementing soil conservation practices, we can increase organic matter in the soil, provide nutrients for crops, improve water quality, sequester carbon and improve the habitat for native wildlife and pollinators.
Because of our strong local conservation partnership and natural resource expertise, Soil and Water Conservation Districts work hand-in-hand with landowners and farmers to improve the health and function of their soil. Additional funding for soil health initiatives would support the SWCDs who provide valuable assistance to farmers and would reduce risks for producers interested in incorporating soil health practices.”
Troy Daniell, State Conservationist, Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
“Cover crops are important to keep your soil covered and rejuvenated. Remember the old photos from the dust bowl days? The wind blew the topsoil into massive clouds of dirt. We tend to think those days are gone but it still happens – just this spring, Northwest Minnesota saw blowing soil so bad it was dangerous to drive because you could not see across the highway through the thick walls of dirt. Cover crops keep the topsoil on the field where it belongs. Minnesota NRCS provides technical assistance and Farm Bill programs to help producers implement practices like no till and cover crops. We can help keep Minnesota’s air and water clean.”
Leif Fixen, Agriculture Strategy Manager, The Nature Conservancy
“Cover crops are one of those great practices that provide us with a number of benefits. They are great for soil health. They are really good for improving water quality. They help us store more carbon in the ground. And they protect our valuable soil from wind erosion.
Cover crops and reducing tillage are two of the biggest things we can do in agriculture to improve the environment. And we’re developing more and more research that shows cover crops and improved soil health, in the long run, make a farm more resilient and profitable.”