Taking soil seriously: Northern Plains leaders elevate stewardship

A NEW resolution was signed into law on May 12 that will designate the first week of April as Montana Soil Health Week and the first Wednesday in April as Montana Soil Health Day.

The week long celebration is designed to raise awareness about how healthy soils can increase crop yields, strengthen food security, create greater climate resiliency, and improve nutrition.

Soil Health Day and Week will also provide an opportunity to highlight the work of farmers, ranchers, gardeners, agencies, and organizations that are stewarding soil health across Montana.

“So much great work is happening in Montana to create healthier soils, and we are excited to have a platform to elevate that work,” said Elle Ross, a member of Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture organisation that helped craft the resolution and shepherd it through the legislative process. “The bipartisan collaboration on this resolution shows how soil health can be a force for good, bringing Montanans from differing communities and perspectives together around something that benefits everyone,” continued Ross.

The resolution, SJ9, was sponsored by Sen. Butch Gillespie (R-Ethridge) and co-sponsored by Sen. Janet Ellis (D-Helena). SJ9 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from both chambers of the Montana Legislature.

Agriculture is one of Montana’s leading industries, and soil advocates note how cultivating greater soil health can generate increased profits and greater stability for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“I have seen first hand how cultivating soil health can generate greater productivity for agricultural producers while improving land stewardship,” said Bill Milton, a Roundup rancher who is also a Northern Plains member. “Montana Soil Health Week will give folks the chance to compare notes, share knowledge, and continue this important work to make our farms, ranches, and rural communities more resilient.”

Numerous organizations, including Northern Plains, have already begun planning for the inaugural 2024 Soil Health Week and Day. State agencies, individuals, and other proponents are also expected to harness this opportunity to expand soil conservation in Montana.

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