Healthy Soil Program


Welcome to the official website for NMDA’s Healthy Soil Program.

BACKGROUND

The Healthy Soil Program (HSP) was created when the Healthy Soil Act was signed into law in 2019.  The purpose of the program is “to promote and support farming and ranching systems and other forms of land management that increase soil organic matter, aggregate stability, microbiology and water retention to improve the health, yield and profitability of the soils of the state.”  At the heart of the Act are five soil health principles:

  1. keeping soil covered;
  2. minimizing soil disturbance on cropland and minimizing external inputs;
  3. maximizing biodiversity;
  4. maintaining a living root; and
  5. integrating animals into land management, including grazing animals, birds, beneficial insects or keystone species, such as earthworms.

More information about the fundamentals of soil health is available in this training, which was offered online by NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service during the fall of 2020.  (To access the free training, simply click on the bulleted “Soil Health Workshop” hyperlink.)

The Healthy Soil Act directs NMDA to engage with “eligible entities” in a variety of ways, including through the awarding of grants to improve soil health and soil health stewardship. The Act defines Eligible Entities as including nations, tribes, and pueblos; land grants; acequias; soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs); and NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service.

UPCOMING OPPORTUNITIES

Following the Healthy Soil Program Listening Sessions that NMDA hosted with Eligible Entity communities in March and April, NMDA’s Healthy Soil Program will host a webinar for potential grant applicants on Friday, May 21, 2021, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.; register to attend herePotential grant applicants include Eligible Entities and Individual Applicants (individual farmers/ranchers applying with the backing of an Eligible Entity).

In the meantime, we strongly encourage potential applicants to refine their project ideas they plan to submit for grant funding consideration.   

Here are the steps that those who intend to apply on behalf of an Eligible Entity can take to prepare for the application process opening after the May 21 webinar:

  1. Identify the soil health-related resource concerns on the land owned or managed by your organization and/or the farmers and ranchers your organization works with.  If your organization doesn’t own or manage any land, this step will require you to begin reaching out to the farmers, ranchers, and other land managers your organization works with.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the five soil health principles defined in the Healthy Soil Act.  Identify which one(s) will help you address the soil health-related resource concerns on the land managed by your organization and/or by the farmers, ranchers, and land managers your organization serves as an Eligible Entity.
  3. Develop a budget of expenses related to implementing the soil health principles and agricultural practices you’ve identified to address soil health-related resource concerns.

Here are the steps that those who intend to apply as Individual Applicants can take to prepare for the application process opening after the May 21 webinar:

  1. Identify and contact the Eligible Entity that will serve as the fiscal agent on your project (required for an individual farmer/rancher to apply to and participate in the program).  Please note that, because of the state’s Anti-Donation Clause, the only Eligible Entity types that can serve as fiscal agents to projects implemented by Individual Applicants are nations, tribes, and pueblos on behalf of their members; and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs).
  2. Identify the soil health-related resource concerns on the land you manage (i.e., own, lease, oversee, etc.) and begin preparing a conservation plan.  Contact the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in your area and/or other technical service providers to assist you.  NRCS provides services at no cost.  
  3. Familiarize yourself with the five soil health principles defined in the Healthy Soil Act.  Identify which one(s) will help you address the soil health-related resource concerns on the land you manage.
  4. Develop a budget of expenses related to implementing the soil health principles and agricultural practices you’ve identified to address your particular soil health-related resource concerns.