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Autumn in New England's Barnet, Vermont. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

2017’s Vermont Regenerative Soils Program

I’m excited to tell you that, earlier this month, Senator Campion introduced a revised and updated version of our regenerative soils bill to the Vermont legislature. The bill is S.43: An act relating to establishing a regenerative soils program. (Full text here.) It is currently with the Senate Commitee on Natural Resources and Energy, and is co-sponsored by Senators Sears, Bray, Clarkson, Pearson, and Pollina.

Healthy Land, Healthy Profits

I don’t play politics. If I had my way, most days I’d never leave the farm. The reason I’ve written and proposed this legislation—with the help of many people smarter than I am—is simple: I believe it is in the interest of all Vermonters to rebuild an agricultural economy that uses healthy farms to produce healthful food and healthy profits.

Our dependency on imported chemicals is bankrupting our rural economies and our soil. We are incredibly lucky to live in a resilient ecosystem, and—as intrepid regenerative farmers and land owners are proving all across this state—it is more ecologically and economically profitable to restore the natural abundance of Vermont’s ecosystem by rebuilding the health of our soils, than it is to erode and degrade our land to the point of chemical dependency.

This bill, I believe, will move us in the direction of:

  • more profitable farms and farming practices;
  • clean watersheds, lakes, and streams;
  • better flood and drought resilience;
  • better crop yields & nutrition;
  • shoring up of the Vermont food brand;
  • a strengthening of our wildlife populations;
  • a regenerative and vibrant dairy industry;
  • and the creation of revenue streams—that are not dependent on fickle tourism dollars—for our rural economies .

Why do I believe that the bill will move us toward these outcomes? Over the past four years—as we’ve transitioned our farm to soil-building practices—I’ve seen them all happen on our farm.

It is my hope that the powerful implications of restoring soil health resonate with legislators in Montpelier as they scramble to contain the effects of degraded soil: polluted waters, economic hardship on family farms, and a beleaguered dairy industry. This bill would create programs to help farmers make the transition to healthier and more independent methods of farming, and a full-time position in the Agency of Natural Resources dedicated to helping them do so.

The bill, as it was proposed, consists of two main initiatives:

The Vermont Regenerative Soils Program

A program created at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources with the following goals, as stated in the text of the bill:

  • improve the health and productivity of the soils of Vermont;
  • increase the carbon sequestration capability of Vermont soils;
  • encourage landowners, including farmers engaged in conventional farming, to transition to regenerative soil practices;
  • reduce the amount of sediment and agricultural waste entering the waters of Vermont;
  • enhance crop resilience to rainfall fluctuations and mitigate water damage to crops, land, and surrounding infrastructure;
    promote cost-effective soil management and farming practices; and
  • help the next generation of Vermont farmers learn regenerative soil practices so that Vermont families may continue to farm in the state.

This program also has a certification element which would give regenerative farmers and landowners the opportunity to be certified as a regenerative, soil-building, carbon-sequestering, watershed-cleaning property.

The Director of Regenerative Soils at the Agency of Natural Resources

A position at the Agency of Natural Resources, charged with:

  • administering the Vermont Regenerative Soils Program;
  • creating policies and programs to help conventional farmers transition away from dependency on tillage and chemicals and to regenerative, soil-building practices;
  • creating policies and programs to incentivize regenerative farmers to continue their work restoring the Vermont ecosystem.

Like It? Take ACTION!

We will need your help to get this bill passed. We have a real opportunity in Montpelier this year to make a real change. The high price Vermont is paying for cheap milk just became perfectly clear in the form of a proposed $1.4 billion cleanup of Lake Champlain. This economic and ecological catastrophe has legislators looking for solutions NOW—and rebuilding soil health in our state is the only economically and ecologically profitable way to address the problems we face.

I hope you support our efforts on behalf of Vermont’s ecosystem and Vermont’s family farms. If you do, please take a few minutes to do one (or all) of the following three things.

1. Contact Your Legislators through

NewGrassRoots is a startup out of Montpelier, Vermont. It’s a modern approach to civic action and it’s helping Vermonters be heard in Vermont’s government. Sign Up. Search for “S.43”. Voice Your Support. It’s that easy.

1. Create an Account at NewGrassRoots

2. Reach Out to Legislators Directly

Tell them you support Senate Bill 43! You can find your legislators’ contact information on the web site. If you don’t want to search through a web site for contact information, I’ve put all their public contact information here in a Google Doc.

2. Contact Your Legislator Directly

3. Get Involved, Spread the Word

Please take a minute to forward this email, post it to Facebook, tweet about it, and so on. If you’d like to stay REALLY up-to-date, join the Soil4Climate Vermont group on Facebook. I’ll be posting updates about our progress there as well as on our web site.

3. Join Soil4Climate Vermont Group

It is my hope that—at the very least—this bill strengthens the conversation we’re having in Vermont about what kind of agriculture and land management practices we’d like to promote in this state: agriculture that pushes families to bankruptcy, pollutes the water, and makes land dependent on chemicals; or agriculture that creates profits, jobs, and a healthy ecosystem.

Pessimism is only a symptom of not yet knowing what’s possible. The regeneration of Vermont’s economy and ecology is possible. I’ve seen it happen here.

Thank you for all your hard work.

With much gratitude,