Farmers for Soil Health Program: Cultivating Sustainability and Climate Resilience in Corn and Soybean Farming

February 8, 2024

Soybean growers are enrolling in the Farmers for Soil Health program. The producer-led initiative establishes financial and technical assistance for corn and soybean farmers who adopt cover crops. The program’s focus is to bring money to farmers to promote sustainability at the farm level, according to Jack Cornell, director of sustainable supply for the United Soybean Board.

“Part of this partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities grant that we were awarded in conjunction with the National Corn Growers and the Pork Checkoff is we had $95 million,” Cornell told the South Dakota Soybean Network. “Seventy million of those dollars are cost share, so it’s going directly back down the farm level for [farmers] to implement cover crops. We also have $20 million that’s essentially set up to help farmers access that $70 million and then also get that to navigate not just cover crops, but other conservation practices that you might take on your farm.”

There is also money to help with administration and infrastructure, Cornell pointed out.

“We were really looking for a program that was going to de-risk farmers taking on these practices and then make it as easy as possible,” he said.

The metric goal of the program is to double cover crop acreage to 30 million by 2030, but Cornell said that’s not the heart of the program.

“The heart of our program is really to help get funding back down to the farm level, to help farmers de-risk when they take on a new practice, a new element of their operation,” said Cornell. “They are impacted because they have to take on the risk. And so, what we’re trying to do is de-risk that opportunity because now they’re getting financially incentivized to go through these practices and then also having the technical assistance along with that.”

There’s a global business facet to Farmers for Soil Health. The program, said Cornell, shows foreign customers that U.S. producers farm sustainably.

“We’re ultimate stewards of the land, and this is an example of a program that showcases to outside organizations, to the global community,” he said, “that we are putting forth our best effort to help with climate resiliency and show stewardship of the land that we manage.”