We are at a critical time for agriculture and the environment. The realities of extreme weather events, conflicts over water, the blight of rural communities, and diminishing natural resources are bearing down on all New Mexicans, with farmers and ranchers at the forefront of these serious problems. At the same time, awareness that soil stewardship can be part of the solution to the climate crisis has been rising and new approaches, mutually beneficial for agriculture and the environment, are gaining traction. Agriculturalists are looking for ways to improve their soil, but they require know-how, sustained technical assistance, help in over- coming institutional barriers, financial incentives, and risk mitigation.

NM Healthy Soil Act

The NM Healthy Soil Working Group formed in the fall of 2018, with the goal to significantly accelerate soil health stewardship in the state. Addressing the prime challenges of inadequate soil health education, lack of financial incentives and prevailing institutional barriers, we succeeded in passing the NM Healthy Soil Act in the spring of 2019. As authors of the bill, we brought together an extensive coalition of over 100 food and agriculture related organizations, as well as environmental groups and dozens of farms and ranches. With this supportive network, the bill had bipartisan support in the house, received unanimous backing in the senate, and was signed into law by the governor on April 2.

NM Healthy Soil Program

Based on five proven soil-health principles, the Healthy Soil Act establishes a voluntary incentives program and a robust support system. Land managers are offered access to soil health testing, education and training opportunities, as well as financial and technical assistance. Program participants learn about soil health in on-site, producer-led workshops and receive technical assistance to put these ideas into practice. A research component, soil health champions network and training for technical service providers round out the bill. Implementation on the ground is facilitated through Soil & Water Conservation Districts and other local entities, including pueblos, tribes, acequia and land grant communities.

The Department of Agriculture is tasked with executing the act, including a comprehensive soil health education package and user-friendly grant program, which was launched in August 2019. Demand for the Healthy Soil Program has been strong and widespread in its first year, far exceeding available state funding: 84 applications were received for pilot project grants, combined requesting over $1.37 million. 19 projects were awarded from an available fund of $175,000. A second RFP for soil health education and outreach projects drew 49 grant proposals with an additional $938,000 in funding requests. Of these, 19 educational projects are being funded to the amount of $186,000 as well as a train-the-trainers program run through Cooperative Extension.

In 2020, recurring state funding to the Healthy Soil Program in the amount of $227,000 has been secured, with a federal match of $100,000 or more.

Soil Health Champions Network

Moving forward, our main focus is continuing to raise awareness of soil-health benefits and to serve New Mexico land managers, as they are key to creating greater soil health on our working lands. To that end, we are building the Soil Health Champions Network and collaborating with agricultural advocacy groups. We are committed to ensuring equity in all our work and honor the diversity of cultures in our state. The Healthy Soil Program explicitly enables pueblos and tribes, as well as acequias and land-grant communities, to access funding and prioritizes small farms and ranches, young farmers, veterans, and projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

While we have focused the Healthy Soil Act on agricultural land managers, anyone who manages property can improve their soil’s health, contributing to carbon capture and simultaneously building the soil sponge, simply by following the soil-health principles.

Endorsements

350 New Mexico
Abiqua Consulting
Aboutlistening & Associates
Abyssinia Gardens
Agri-Cultura Network
Agriculture Implementation Research & Education
Agro Bio Tech
Albuquerque Sustainable Business
All Pueblo Council of Governors
American Grassfed Association
Antidote Farms
Antiguas Del Norte Apiary
Armijo Farm
Audubon New Mexico
Avery’s Farm
B & R Trucking, Inc.
Bacoccini Family Farms LLC
Berlier Ranch
Bernalillo County Commissioners
Bioneers
Bodhi Farms
Box Farm
Brininstool XL Ranch
Cabezon Wounded Warrior Haven
Casa Fresco
Chispas Farm
Cimarron Mercantile LLC
Cloudfire Pottery
Conservation Voters New Mexico
Del Valle Pecans LLC
Desert Oasis Teaching Garden
Devil’s Spring Ranch
DOT Garden
Dream Catcher Ranchito
Ecological Farming Association
Edible New Mexico
Embudo Valley Organics
Eve’s Farm
Farm to Table
Farmhouse Café & Bakery
Flower Hill Institute
Fodder Farm
Food & Water Watch
Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute
Gallisteo GeoScience
Get in My Garden Podcast
Glorieta Geoscience, Inc.
Grass Nomads LLC
Green Tractor Farm
Grow Y’Own
Growing Opportunities
Guadalupe Mountain Fencing
Holistic Management International
Hood Farm & Ranch
Hughes Commercial Properties

Hughes Ranch & Hunting Service
John A. & Mary L. Ballard Farm & Ranch
Joyful Gardens
Judith Phillips Design Oasis
Juniper Hill Center
Kiss the Ground
La Montañita Co-op
Lily Farm
Little Bear Forest Reform Coalition
Los Jardines Institute
Los Ranchos de Albuquerque
Lotus Farms
McClure Ranch
Mesa Verde Humates
Mesteno Draw Ranch
Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Monte Azul Farms LLC
Monte Vista Organic Farm
Morning Star Farm
Nambe Orchards
National Young Farmers Coalition
New Mexico Acequia Association
New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts
New Mexico Climate Defenders
New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau
New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association
New Mexico Food & Agriculture Policy Council
New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light
New Mexico Land Conservancy
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
New Mexico Xeriscape Society
North Valley Organics
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Our Water: The Lifeblood
Pata Viva Farm
Peas and Hominy
Pebble Labs
Pesticide Action Network North America
Pilar Acequia Association
Polk’s Folly Farm
Pueblo of Santa Ana, Dept. of Natural Resources
Pueblo of Tesuque
Pure Circle Recycling
Quarter Circle U
Quay Ranch
Rafter C Farms
Rancho Alma Linda
Rancho Arco Iris
Rancho La Jolla
Ranney Ranch
Revolution Farm
Reyah Sunshine Farm
Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens
Rio en Medio Botanicals
Rivers & Birds

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance
Sage Coyote Farm
San Isidro Permaculture Inc.
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute
Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce
Santa Fe Watershed Association
Serafina Garlic Co.
SFCC Innovation Center
Sierra Club: Rio Grande & Northern Rio Grande Chapters
Soil Secrets
Soil4Climate
Soil Carbon Coalition
Sol Feliz Farm
Sonlatsa
Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance
Sunfarm de las Huertas
Surroundings Studio
Synergia Ranch Organic Fruits & Vegetables
Tabla’s LLC
Taos Land Trust
Terra Flora Garden Design
Tesuque Pueblo Farm
The Climate Change Leadership Institute
The Food Museum
The Railyard Park Conservancy
The Rain Catcher Inc.
The Xerxes Society
Tierra Sagrada Farm
Tooley’s Trees
Triangle P Cattle Co.
Trigg Cattle Co.
Trout Unlimited
Trujillo Farm
Trujillo Organic Farms LLC
Twin Willows Ranch
Two Willows Farm
Unitarian Universalists Church Santa Fe
Ute Creek Cattle Company
Valencia Community Gardens
Van Dyke Vineyards
Villanueva Fields
Western Family Farm
Western Landowners Alliance
Western Navajo Farm Board
Wild Farm Alliance
Wildharber Farm
Wildhood Farm
Yesterday’s Valley Ranch, Inc.
Zulu’s Petals Organic