Four more American Farmland Trust-NRCS case studies show how soil health practices increase farm profitability

Evidence builds for economic and environmental benefits of soil health efforts, creating a library of on-farm examples for use by farmers and service providers across the country.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, is releasing four new "Accelerating Soil Health" case studies, adding to four studies released in July 2019, to assist farmers who are curious about soil health and technical service providers who want to help farmers adopt soil health practices. This work continues to show that healthier soil on farmland brings economic benefits to farmers and environmental benefits to society. These case studies were developed in partnership with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service under a Conservation Innovation Grant.

From farmers, to retailers, to the supply chain and even presidential candidates, there is recognition that adopting soil health practices, like cover crops, no-till, strip-till, nutrient management, mulching and compost application, is critical to improving environmental outcomes on farms and orchards including better air and water quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Through AFT's farmer outreach and education events, AFT has learned farmers believe the scientific evidence that soil health practices improve soil and water quality. Yet adoption has been low due to perceived financial risk of trying something new, the risk of investment on rented lands, and lack of information about how much the soil health practices will cost or benefit them. So, AFT set out to find what we call, "soil health successful farmers," and with their permission conducted an economic analysis of their soil health journey.
NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says, "Healthy soil is the foundation to successful farming, and these case studies will be an invaluable resource for NRCS as we work with producers to improve their operations and conserve natural resources." He continues, "One of my top priorities as chief is to increase awareness and education of soil health practices, and these case studies provide concrete evidence that soil health management systems can lead to economic benefits for the producer."
AFT Water Initiative Director and Project Leader Michelle Perez says, "Building evidence for the economic benefits of these soil health practices and providing models for adoption is critical to achieve more widespread use of the practices and more rapid realization of benefits for farmers and society. We hope conservation partners at NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Extension, plus partners in the private sector -- corporations with supply chain sustainability goals, crop consultants, cover crop seed dealers and strip-till equipment providers -- use these case studies with their customers to help answer questions about the costs and benefits of adopting soil health practices.
The four two-page case studies released today, which represent the second installment of work under the "Accelerating Soil Health Adoption by Quantifying Economic and Environmental Outcomes & Overcoming Barriers on Rented Lands" project, feature:
• Tom and Dan Rogers, California almond growers who are implementing compost, mulching and nutrient management
• Jim, Julie and Josh Ifft, Illinois corn and soybean farmers implementing no-till and cover crops
• Dan Lane, an Ohio corn and soybean farmer implementing strip-till with banded dry fertilizer and cover crops
• John and Jim Macauley, New York beef and crop farmers implementing no-till, cover crops and nutrient management
Combined results from all eight case studies are featured on the Findings page of the project website and highlight yield and income benefits, input benefits, and environmental benefits.
Information for Farmers and Conservation Service Providers:
Farmers across the country can reach out to their local NRCS and SWCD staff to help them implement soil health practices on their farm. In the watersheds featured in the four case studies, farmers can reach out to both the local NRCS and SWCD staff as well as the four AFT authors of the case studies:
• Paul Lum, California Project Manager (plum@farmland.org)
• Dr. Emily Bruner, Midwest Science Director, Illinois (ebruner@farmland.org)
• Brian Brandt, Agricultural Innovations Director, Ohio (bbrandt@farmland.org)
• Aaron Ristow, New York Agricultural Stewardship Program Manager (aristow@farmland.org)

AFT will be hosting online webinars to offer trainings to fellow conservationists and farmers who want to learn how to conduct the partial budget economic analysis used in this project. Please email SHTraining@farmland.org with your interest in the training webinars and we will email you the webinar details.

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American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mission is "Helping People Help the Land." NRCS helps America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners conserve the nation's soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.

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