It’s been a while since we’ve shared in-depth updates on our soil health policy efforts in Ohio. But rest assured, behind the scenes and at the Statehouse, OEFFA’s policy team, the Ohio Soil Health Initiative (OSHI), member leaders, and partners have been working hard to make progress to prioritize soil health in Ohio.
Introducing the Soil Health Pilot Program
This winter, with the previously proposed Soil Health Task Force Bill (HB 669) on pause and the legislative session heading towards a state budget review process, OSHI saw an opportunity. We set forth a budget proposal for the Soil Health Pilot Program. The program would fund innovative projects around the state focused on improving soil health, establishing farmer networks to share their knowledge on soil health practice implementation, and helping to increase farm resilience and profitability while alleviating Ohio’s water quality concerns and more.
Following the steps of the biennial budget process, we first met with Ohio House Representatives who would potentially help us move this proposal forward and include it in their version of the budget. To help in these efforts, we contracted with a well-connected consulting firm with a great track record and reputation in Ohio policy matters. We were able to meet with dozens of representatives who were members of either the House Finance or Agriculture committees. These meetings were opportunities to initiate relationships, secure legislative champions, and introduce OEFFA, OSHI, the farmers we work with, and the pilot project proposal.
The Importance of Soil Health, as Told by OEFFA Farmers and Members
In March, OEFFA Soil Health Ambassador, Jim Linne of White Clover Farm in Hillsboro Ohio, and OEFFA’s Policy Program Director, Amalie Lipstreu, gave testimony in favor of amending the House version of the budget to include the pilot program.
This project garnered impressive support from our community. OEFFA members, organization partners, and OSHI members offered many letters of support for the project which were shared with the elected officials we met with. Additionally, many OEFFA supporters submitted requests to their representatives to support the pilot program.
While the House debated and eventually passed its version of the budget, we wasted no time in meeting with key senators at the Statehouse. Once again, we met with members of the Senate Finance and Agriculture committees over a series of weeks in late March and early May.
Senate Testimony with the Late, Great Dave Brandt
In mid-May, along with Amalie, the late and great Dave Brandt gave testimony to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. He also established a connection with his own senator, Tim Schaffer, who chairs the committee. Dave, as he always did, showed up for what he believed in: educating others about the importance of soil health and advocating for wider adoption of good soil health practices throughout the world. Personally, I feel so lucky to have worked with a truly impressive farmer and advocate such as Dave. I hope to embody his spirit of community and education as I continue my soil health work with OEFFA.
As the Senate prepared to debate their version of the budget, we delivered organic seedlings to each potential senate champion’s office as a final nudge of encouragement for them to consider supporting soil health innovation in the budget with the pilot project.
Unfortunately, we learned in late June that our proposal wasn’t included in the Senate or the final budget.
Moving Forward with Our Commitment to Soil Health
As ever with our policy work, we reflect on our efforts, evaluate successes and setbacks, and look forward to our goals. Building on the momentum of our budget process work, we now have the opportunity to deepen the relationships we forged in the Statehouse and workshop new legislative proposals.
We’re in the process of reviewing legislative options from our National Healthy Soil Policy Network (NHSPN) partners to narrow down our best choices moving forward with soil health legislation in Ohio. Our next steps are to work with you (soil health advocates and OEFFA members!) to identify the best legislative solution to advance soil health work in the legislature for the remainder of this session and mobilize Ohio soil health supporters to reach our goals.
After honing in on our next legislative direction, we hope to identify two Republican and two Democratic champions who will advance the legislation in the Ohio House and Senate.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org about ways you can be involved with our state soil health work.
Ready to take action for soil health NOW? Click here and ask your members of Congress to support soil health in the 2023 Farm Bill!