February 26, 2021
In early June, the Maine Legislature passed the Maine Healthy Soils Program bill! As the impacts of climate change, like recent droughts, become more challenging, an increasing number of Maine farmers want to know more about soil health and how it can benefit their farms. This legislation will create a hub for critical information, tools and assistance to help more Maine farmers use practices to build soil health, and in doing so, realize the climate change resilience, mitigation, and economic benefits healthy soils can provide. Thanks to MFT board member, farmer, and state senator Stacy Brenner for championing this bill, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and all of the farmers and partners who spoke up in support of soil health!
Senator Stacy Brenner’s bill, LD 437 – An Act to Establish the Maine Healthy Soils Program, will create a program within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry to connect farmers with key resources and equip them with the tools and knowledge they need to begin voluntarily using healthy soil practices – an important climate adaptation strategy. The Program will provide a one-stop-shop for farmers seeking information about how to keep their soils healthy. This information could include: healthy soils land management practices; technical assistance services offered by agriculture support providers to help farmers use these practices; connections to other farmers already using these practices successfully; funding opportunities to support the use of these practices; and more.
While many organizations in Maine are providing excellent resources to help farmers implement healthy soils practices, farmers’ access to those resources will be much improved through a coordinated state program. L.D. 437 will provide this coordination by elevating the expertise of farmers who already are implementing healthy soils practices, and promoting the technical, research, and financial assistance offered by the University of Maine, Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District offices, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and many other organizations and businesses. The bill will also establish a fund to house and distribute any future federal or philanthropic financial support for the use of healthy soils practices.