“Homegrown Prosperity” captures the essence of investing in building strong sustainable economies and communities. It’s a formula for sustainable prosperity for all by making connections between our major economies of agriculture and energy with our communities, our small businesses, and our future.
As a public advocate for “Homegrown Prosperity,” as I travel across North Dakota, the one unifying theme from my conversations, the importance of healthy soil. People shared concerns about local food, food security, bee populations, urban gardening, improved farm/beef production, dangerous algae blooms, access to clean water, healthy foods, and green spaces; hunting, flood/drought issues and economic resilience. All these things have one thing in common--the need for healthy soil.
Although we have made strides in preventing soil loss since the 1930s, North Dakota’s soils continue to lose high levels of carbon. Soil loss costs North Dakota farmers millions in losses, affects flood/drought damages and is degrading surface waters as evidenced by several lakes around our state closed due to algae blooms. In a state prone to flooding and drought, healthy soil has proven to stabilize the climate and waterways. The Biden administration has made its commitment to natural climate solutions known and is looking to agricultural practices like investments in soil health as one of the natural climate solutions.
Congress is crafting a $3.5 trillion funding package to address the climate crisis and critical infrastructure needs. Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have until Sept. 15th to decide how to allocate $135 billion to agriculture and food security. As a landowner focusing on soil health, it’s time for a substantial investment to farmers, ranchers, landowners, gardeners, and city planners to promote healthy soils to build climate resilience.
Funding for soil health is in perfect alignment with the new administration’s commitment to natural climate solutions and food security. To achieve this goal experts at the National Healthy Soils Policy Network recommend a budget containing $30 billion for soil conservation and range management that could open the door for more income for struggling family farms; $5 billion for climate resilience research and organic research that our state universities could easily procure; and $3 billion for value added agriculture, on farm renewable energy, and livestock processing, which would give North Dakota the opportunity to develop a regional slaughtering facility in North Dakota.
Further, the independent farming laws enshrined in North Dakota’s Constitution will ensure that the federal investment in our soil and local food production stays local and directly benefits family farms and ranches. Investment into healthy soil will connect family farms and ranches to all aspects of North Dakota life. That’s a great investment!
By investing in soil we sequester carbon, improve water quality while also supporting family farms. Both Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer have voted yes for the much-needed infrastructure bill. Now is the time for Cramer and Hoeven to fight for that investment to go directly to our farmers, ranchers, landowners for one of our greatest resources—our soil.
Dr. Lenz is a veterinarian and former Democratic candidate for North Dakota governor.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.