Proposing a Tax Refund Contribution Option to the NM Healthy Soil Program

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The NM Healthy Soil Working Group continues to advocate for resources supporting farmers and ranchers in transitioning to more resilient management approaches. HB 89 “The Healthy Soil Tax Refund Contribution Option” is a way to provide additional funds for the Healthy Soil Program.

New Mexico State Capitol. Photo by Drew Tarvin (CC BY 2.0)

HB 89 “The Healthy Soil Tax Refund Contribution Option” is sponsored by Representatives Jack Chatfield, Christine Chandler, Nathan Small and Gail Armstrong. This bill enables all New Mexico residents who qualify for a state tax refund to voluntarily contribute all or part of their refund to the Healthy Soil Program administered by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA). This is a great way to engage the wider citizenry in the value and importance of soil health and stewardship. This is also a good way to raise public awareness and support for the program without asking for an additional state appropriation beyond the critically important requested allocation in NMDA’s budget.

Read the text of the bill

There is broad support for this Bill: A wide cross section of stakeholders and diverse communities is supportive of HB89 and the Healthy Soil Program including the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, the Food & Ag Policy Council, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, New Mexico Public Health Association, Sierra Club, 350.org, many other agriculture and conservation groups, as well as hundreds of urban and rural residents, producers and consumers.

What is the Healthy Soil Program?

  • The Healthy Soil Program was created by the Healthy Soil Act which was enacted in the 2019 legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support (learn more).
  • The program provides coordinated technical assistance, education, training and grant funding for farmers, ranchers and other land managers engaged in regenerative agriculture and soil stewardship.
  • The program encourages the core principles: keeping soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing biodiversity, integrating animals, and maintaining a living root.

Why is the Healthy Soil Program important?

  • The program and adoption of these principles can have a major impact on water retention, public health, producer success, rural economic development, pollution reduction, carbon sequestration and working lands resiliency(see the many benefits of soil health).
  • NMDA is successfully administering the program in coordination with the following eligible entities: soil and water conservation districts, pueblos & tribes, acequias, land grants and cooperative extension.
  • Demand for the Healthy Soil Program is strong and widespread, far exceeding appropriated state funds: during the first two years of the program 177 grant applications were received coming from all around the state and 63 applications (35%) were funded. There were nearly $3 million in total requests with $600,000 (20%) ultimately awarded.
  • There has been significant leveraging of resources for this program, including from USDA/NRCS, a State Conservation Innovation Grant, and foundation funding. New prospects include federal block grants for states with Healthy Soil programs like New Mexico’s.

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