I recently met with a group of Dutch entrepreneurs visiting Colorado who were intrigued by the idea of “super farms.” They were referring to the large North American farms that we learned about in our high school economics classes back in the Netherlands. We talked about how large parts of the continent are blessed with nutrient-rich soils that produce abundant harvests. With ingenuity and perseverance, farmers and ranchers have built productive rural economies thanks to these soils. I told them that a soil health renaissance is underway to enhance this fundamental resource – changing behavior to keep soil in place and build resilience and economic incentives.
Most of the solutions to prevent soil erosion and build soil health are known. The biggest opportunity is to dramatically accelerate the adoption of soil health solutions. To capitalize on this, we need to show that these solutions are cost-competitive and profitable. And we need to create incentives to support farmers and ranchers who are adopting these practices. New partnerships are forming between farmers, ranchers, insurance companies, banks, investors, and researchers to make this a reality.
Across the country, unique collaborations are underway that focus on improving soil health through a variety of mechanisms.
- Leverage data to improve farm conservation: Agriculture leaders in AGree’s Conservation & Crop Insurance Task Force (CCITF) are supporting the USDA in implementing sections of the 2018 Farm Bill to harness agriculture data to conserve natural resources and improve producer profitability. The new law ensures that farmer data can be accessed by trusted researchers and used for research and analysis to help farmers and ranchers by showing which practices help the environment and increase farm profitability.
- Reward farmers for reducing risk: Agriculture commodity groups are working with insurance companies and environmental groups to develop a crop insurance product that provides lower insurance premiums for farmers who invest in soil health and—by doing so—reduce risks of crop losses during drought or heavy rainfall.
- Conduct new research and spur innovation: Data and technology are radically transforming our understanding of soil health. Just this week, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded seed funding for one of Meridian’s partners, FarmOS, for a new initiative called Open TEAM. Open TEAM provides access to environmental data (including soil data) for farmers to help them make sustainable and profitable farm management decisions.
These are examples of the power behind collaboration to create innovative solutions that help farmers, ranchers, and the environment. The Dutch entrepreneurs were encouraged by the partnerships, policies, and innovations that are making soil health a growing movement in the United States. They mentioned that the world needs to hear these inspiring stories. It should be Global Soil Week every week! #GSW2019 @GlobalSoilWeek