Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 166
Summary: Sponsored by Reps. Chatfield and Small, HB 166 calls for an increase of $300,000 in the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) budget for the Healthy Soil Program.
History: In 2019, HB 204 Health Soil Act passed 48:6 in the House, 34:0 in the Senate, and was signed into law by the Governor in April. The Healthy Soil Act is based on 5 proven soil health principles and establishes a voluntary incentives program and robust support system. Land managers are offered access to soil health testing, education and training opportunities, as well as financial and technical assistance. Program participants learn about soil health in on-site, producer-led workshops and receive technical assistance to put these ideas into practice. Implementation is facilitated through Soil & Water Conservation Districts and other local entities, including pueblos, tribes, acequia, and land grant communities. The NMDA is tasked with executing the act, including a comprehensive soil health education package and user-friendly grant program which was launched in August 2019.
Why is the Healthy Soil Program important?
- The program benefits include increasing our imperiled water supply, improving public health, and supporting rural economic development, while reducing pollution, sequestering atmospheric carbon, and boosting land resilience.
- NMDA has led a successful implementation of the program which has the backing of a robust cross section of stakeholders.
- Demand for the Healthy Soil Program is strong and widespread: during the first year 84 applications were received for pilot Healthy Soil project grants, requesting over $1.37 million. The education component of the program is drawing a similarly great response.
- There has been significant leveraging of resources, including from USDA/NRCS, through the Farm Bill’s complementary soil health language, a new State Conservation Innovation Grant, and foundation funding. With an increase in our state’s commitment, opportunities to secure such funds will expand.
- The Governor’s Interagency Task Force in support of the Executive Order on Climate Change includes the Healthy Soil Program as an important strategy to capture atmospheric carbon in the soil and achieve New Mexico’s emission reduction targets.
Hundreds of New Mexico organizations, farms, and businesses including 350 NM, All Pueblo Council of Governors, Audubon New Mexico, Bernalillo County Commissioners, Climate Change Leadership Institute, Diné Food Sovereignty Alliance, Edible New Mexico, Food & Water Watch, La Montanita Co-Op, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy, National Young Farmers Coalition, NM Acequia Association, NM Farm & Livestock Bureau, NM Farmers’ Marketing Association, NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council, NM Land Conservancy, NM Wildlife Federation, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Sierra Club, Taos Land Trust, The Xerxes Society, Unitarian Universalists Santa Fe, Veterans for Peach Santa Fe, Western Landowners Alliance