Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced the Conservation for Very Erodible Row Cropland Act of 2018 (COVER Act) to promote soil health practices in conservation programs. The bill would incent and develop farm practices that improve soil health, enhance farm resilience, and increase carbon storage, while boosting farm incomes.
“With prolonged drought and a challenging Colorado farm economy, we are committed to helping farmers find solutions that increase revenues and protect the environment,” Bennet said. “Promoting soil health practices—when tailored to local needs—holds tremendous promise to increase yields, enhance climate resilience, and remove carbon from the atmosphere.”
Following the bill introduction, Bennet sent a letter to Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to request the upcoming Farm Bill include provisions on soil health.
“A Farm Bill that bolsters efforts by producers to improve soil health and therefore boost farm incomes is one of the most meaningful ways to sustain a strong farm economy,” Bennet wrote in the letter.
The COVER Act would modify two U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs to promote soil health and place a greater focus on carbon storage in healthy soils.
First, the bill would establish a Soil Health Initiative as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to provide payments for practices that improve soil health and enhance farm resilience, such as cover crops, organic soil amendments, and livestock grazing. The initiative would serve a diverse set of regions, with varying water quantities and agricultural practices.
Second, the bill would establish the Cover Crop Pilot Program as part of the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. The pilot program would provide payments to measure and verify outcomes from cover crops and prioritize projects with third-party partners, such as livestock producers, food manufacturers, and commodity groups.
“Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) has long supported developing substantial increases and acceleration of cover crops, mixes and sequences of cover crops, and rotations of crops for diversification and resilience. We also encourage and support soil health practices that aim to increase organic matter and reduce dependence on commercial chemicals and fertilizers. RMFU is proud to support the COVER Act, thanks Sen. Bennet for his work in this important matter, and look forward to its swift passage,” said Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Dale McCall.
“The Colorado Association of Wheat Growers supports Senator Michael Bennet’s efforts to encourage soil health through the COVER Act. Wheat producers in Colorado can benefit from improving their soil health through more intensive crop rotations that provide greater ground cover to resist wind erosion, and generate more plant biomass, thereby increasing soil organic matter. We support including provisions that incentivize this in the next Farm Bill,” said Colorado Wheat Executive Director Brad Erker.
“Agricultural practices that improve soil health are key to building a growing and resilient rural economy that sequesters more carbon than it emits. This bill will support farmers across America to scale up the deployment of innovative practices that boost farm incomes and carbon storage,” said Center for Carbon Renewal Executive Director Noah Deich.