Healthy Soils Task Force
In 2019, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill to create the Healthy Soils Task Force (LB243 passed on a vote of 43-0). The task force is to establish a plan for Nebraska “using standards for organic matter, biological activity, biological diversity and soil structure as measures to assess improved soil health.”
Voting members on the task force have been appointed by the governor. The members are primarily agricultural producers or involved with their local Natural Resource District (NRD). The Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director or his designee is also a voting member. Non-voting members of the task force are the chairs or designees of the Legislature's Agriculture and Natural Resource committees.
When developing the plan, the task force will examine how to provide farmers and ranchers with research, education, technical assistance and demonstration projects; financial incentives to improve soil health; and information on the contribution of livestock to soil health. It also will identify goals and timelines for improving the state's soil health through voluntary partnerships among producers and state and local agencies as well as public and private entities. The task force is required to submit its plan, findings and recommendations to the Legislature and the governor by Jan. 1, 2021, when it terminates.
At the first meeting, the task force members divided themselves into groups of two. They are tasked with the responsibility of researching other state's initiatives at education, research, funding, and technical assistance regarding no-till or reduce tillage practices.
Those on the task force are inspired to help spread the message on how cover crops can expand room in the soil for better root growth and increase biodiversity within the soil. An interest of those gathered was to expand education and information regarding soil health and it's impact on saving water and energy usage during plant growth. The task force was cognizant of the need to be able to communicate to producers how utilizing healthy soil best practices correlates to ag production profits.
At this first meeting, Aaron Hird the Nebraska NRCS Soil Health Specialist presented a PowerPointcovering the definition of soil health as defined by NRCS, why soil health is important, USDA/NRCS Conservation Programs relevant to soil health, and 2017 Agriculture Census Data relevant to Soil Health.
A second presentation was given by Dr. Hannah Birge, a member of the task force and an employee of the Nature Conservancy, presented information from The Nebraska Soil Health Roundtable. The Roundtable was developed when the Nebraska Corn Board, the Nature Conservancy, the University and the Nebraska NRCS began discussing how they could collaborate their organization's individual efforts on soil health for the benefit of Nebraska. From listening sessions that were held, Dr. Birge presented the results that Roundtable from with hopes that this information would help the task force as they look at developing a cohesive direction and guidance plan for the state regarding soil health.
The next task force meeting will be Wednesday, September 25 at 1 pm in York.
Healthy Soils USDA-NRCS Brochure