By: Ron Nichols
We’re looking at some pretty big challenges here on planet Earth.
World population is growing and will likely reach 9 billion by the year 2050. Every day, through development and degradation, we lose more of the farmland we need to grow our food. Across the globe, water and other resources are becoming increasingly scare. And extreme weather events like flooding and drought are adding to our food production challenges.
When it comes to growing low-cost, nutritious food, all Americans should understand that without healthy soil there are no farms, and without farms there is no food.
According to a new analysis by the American Farmland Trust, 41 million acres of rural land has been permanently lost in the last 25 years to highways, shopping malls, and urban sprawl. Of that amount, 23 million acres (an area the size of Indiana) was agricultural land.
The rate of recent farmland loss has been an astonishing one acre per minute.
Most Americans don’t think a lot about where their food comes from. They go to supermarkets, put items in their carts, take their groceries home and prepare their meals.
America’s cities sprang up on some of our most productive farmland. Today, the farms closest to our urban areas produce an astounding 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables, but they remain the most threatened. One of the ways we can ensure the survival of these important farms is to improve the productivity and profitability of our farms – beginning with the soil.
Healthy Soil: The Foundation of Healthy Farms
In spite of increasing food production and environmental challenges, there’s a big solution that’s right under our feet – in healthy soil.
National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with America’s farmers and ranchers to improve the health and function of their soil through soil health management practices like no-till, cover crops, diverse cropping rotations and managed grazing. These techniques are helping make farms of all sizes more productive and profitable. Farmers with healthy soil not only grow healthier crops, they also harvest a wide range of environmental benefits off the farm.
The “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” is a new campaign by USDA’s NRCS. Its purpose is to help farmers and ranchers build healthier, more productive and more resilient soils that are able to sequester more carbon and store more water – all while providing healthy food and keeping our environment clean.
The campaign offers a new hope in healthy soil – for all of us.
Through a series of 30 and 15 – second public service messages, urban consumers will become more aware of the roll soil health plays in their food, in their lives, and in their future. In rural areas, these messages will connect with actual farmers, ranchers and landowners who can adopt soil health management systems – which is good for the farm, the farmer’s bottom line, and for our planet.