State lawmakers on Wednesday called for the final passage of a bill meant to enlist farmers in the fight against climate change by expanding sustainable soil efforts in the state.
The measure is aimed at increasing carbon sequestration in order to meet New York's climate goals in the coming years while also boosting water quality and resilience to issues like extreme weather at the farm and in surrounding communities.
The bill would require the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to create a voluntary set of standards for soil health in order to drive on-farm planning and goal setting. The move, supporters hope, would allow farmers to take advantage of farm management practices at the state and federal levels, as well as in the private sector.
The measure would also codify soil health and soil health practices for future policy going forward.
“New York agriculture is a core part of the solution to fighting climate change in our state, and the Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act is the legislation that will truly solidify this essential partnership,” said Sen. Michelle Hinchey, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in a statement. “This legislation will codify, for the first time in State law, soil health and climate-resilient farming practices to safeguard our food supply, water, and air quality for generations to come. Improving the health of agricultural soils is one of the most important climate solutions of our time, and I am proud to sponsor this transformative legislation to bring New York’s soil health laws to 21st century standards.”
The bill was approved unanimously in the state Assembly last week and needs passage in the state Senate before heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.
“The Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act recognizes the vital role agriculture can play in helping the state achieve its climate goals. It starts off with the simple premise that the health and resiliency of New York’s agricultural soil is an important priority," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo in a statement. "Healthy soil produces healthier foods, mitigates climate change through carbon sequestration, and protects our natural resources. Sometimes referred to as regenerative agriculture, this bill is a first step toward encouraging a 'culture of soil health' in New York state."