Last week, during a widely reported visit to South Dakota, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue stated that replenishing and sustaining soil health is a priority for him. “That (soil health) has to do with organic matter, with cover crops, with really how we care for that land each year in replenishment rather than mining,” he said. Perdue’s comments were made near Aberdeen as he toured the prairie pothole region.
Perdue’s statements are welcome in light of the many rollbacks of conservation, clean water, clean air and fish and wildlife protections advanced by the Trump administration. Under Perdue’s leadership, USDA recently withdrew two rules, commonly referred to as “GIPSA,” mandated by Congress to ensure a “better functioning marketplace for farmers and ranchers in the livestock and poultry industry.” The rules are broadly supported by associations and groups to help restore fair markets and a more level playing field for livestock producers.
While Secretary Perdue’s comments don’t square with this action, they do suggest a new direction. SFA doesn’t allocate resources for policy advocacy and lobbying, but individually you can make your voice heard and impact whether soil health and the protection of our food producing resources and family farmers is, indeed, a priority with USDA and Congress. Don’t miss opportunities to speak with USDA officials, Minnesota Congressional delegation members and your legislators, and raise your voice at meetings of ag groups in your area.
SFA is a member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), which advocates for sustainable agriculture policy in Congress and with USDA and NRCS. If you want to be involved at that level, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Minnesota Farmers Union actively engages the public in the Farm Bill debate as does the Land Stewardship Project, which offers an organizing vehicle for folks who want to shape a farm bill for our air, land, water and rural communities. Your voice matters, and now is a good time to make it heard.