By Robb Hirsch, Co-Fonder NM Healthy Soil Working Group
We wanted to give an update about the recent progress at this year’s state legislature. The big news as it relates to soil health—as well as broader scale stewardship of land and water resources—is that the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (SB 9) was adopted in strong bipartisan fashion and signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham early this spring. The Legacy Fund was created and funded at the amount of $100 million dollars to be invested over time and used each year starting in FY 25 to support our state’s vital land and water conservation endeavors including the Healthy Soil Program. This means that there will be guaranteed long term investment into critical conservation efforts. By providing the required matching dollars, the Legacy Fund will enable New Mexico to access federal funding for our state’s conservation, agriculture, outdoor recreation, restoration and natural resource programs.
A big thanks goes out to all the stakeholders across New Mexico who worked so hard advocating for this landmark achievement which has been years in the making. Thank you to the bill sponsors including Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Senator Steven Neville and Representative Nathan Small as well as to the Governor’s Office. Visit this link to view the scope of the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund and the extensive alliance behind it. In future legislative sessions, the hope and plan is to add to the fund so that it becomes self-sustaining from interest earned each year and thereby grows sufficiently in order to robustly support the relevant programs in its purview, including NMDA’s Healthy Soil Program. We should all advocate for the New Mexico State Legislature in future sessions to fully seed fund the Legacy Fund at the amount of at least $350 Million Dollars.
In the nearer term, for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2024, there is recurring funding to support the Healthy Soil Program as well as complementary non recurring funding through the Food Initiative. The Food Initiative was adopted this session supporting an umbrella of wide ranging and vital hunger, nutrition and regenerative agriculture related programming including for Healthy Soils. This near term funding is critical for the stability and on-going advancement of the NMDA administered Healthy Soil Program.
The bottom line is: New Mexico is investing in soil health in the near term and in the long run. And now we have an opportunity to expand the state commitment with significant federal dollars through USDA/NRCS and through the upcoming Farm Bill. A marker bill known as the Agriculture Resiliency Act has been co-sponsored by our very own US Senator Martin Heinrich (see the press release here). Let’s keep working together to build soil health in New Mexico through increased state investment (through the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund and otherwise), by federal funding (matching funding and beyond), through stewardship on tribal lands and by teamwork throughout our civil society.