Roadmap Goals & Priorities

Vision

New York State is a recognized leader in soil health research, outreach, and policy, with effective stakeholder partnerships and demonstrated success at promoting a strong and dynamic agricultural and forest economy, protecting natural resources and biodiversity, improving resilience to extreme weather, and contributing to climate change mitigation.

Goals & Priorities - 1

Institutionalize a stakeholder network and organizational framework for soil health collaboration, communication, and priority setting  

Policy:

  • Institutionalize the “New York Soil Health” effort, which has been coordinated by Cornell CALS as New York State’s land grant partner, to provide a platform for sharing the full diversity of interests, resources, events and priorities of the many stakeholders involved in soil health
  • A key role of this statewide program will be to establish a direct communication channel with policymakers and bring attention to and speak with one voice regarding specific soil health goals, and policy priorities to meet those goals

Research and Outreach:

  • Seek consensus where possible and promote a consistent message on soil health goals, and strategies to reach those goals, including research, and outreach priorities
  • Identify and capitalize on opportunities for research and outreach synergy across groups with similar goals and/or activities, including farmer-to-farmer training
Goals & Priorities - 2

Identify and take steps to overcome barriers to wider adoption of soil health practices

Policy:

  • Update New York State Soil and Water Conservation Districts Law to explicitly support soil health practices for attaining agricultural and environmental goals
  • Facilitate communication among all county, state and federal agencies regarding the integration of soil health with broader environmental goals, programs, and policies
  • With input from stakeholders, identify specific soil health goals and priorities
  • Increase support for soil health programming within existing state agencies
  • Ensure regulatory consistency across agencies to facilitate reaching soil health goals
  • Facilitate agribusiness ventures and farm credit opportunities that provide low cost loans, technical assistance, equipment rental, or related soil health services to farmers
  • Evaluate the potential for farmers to gain a reputational benefit from adoption of soil health practices, for example by marketing a “Soil Health Grown” label
  • Provide grant opportunities for basic and applied soil health research and outreach

Research and Outreach:

  • Develop an intellectual and practical knowledge base for research and outreach planning based on:
    • A quantitative soil health assessment in agricultural, urban, and natural areas across the state, and identify key regional and sector challenges and opportunities
    • Economic and feasibility analyses for expanded adoption of soil health practices for specific land uses, regions, soil types, etc.
    • Research on best methods to incentivize adoption of soil health practices
    • Identified needs and opportunities in technology and farm equipment
    • Fundamental soil biology and ecology research
  • Develop research and outreach agendas specifically for:
    • Underserved areas of the state and underserved land managers/owners such as apple, grape, organic, and other farmer groups, and managers of grasslands, pastures, forests, and urban landscapes
    • Developing and evaluating new cover crop varieties and species mixtures, novel rotation schemes, agroforestry, and perennial grain crops
    • Integrating cover crops and/or double crops into cash crop systems
    • Technical support for transitioning to new soil health practices, including “workbooks”, mobile phone apps, etc.
    • Ground cover management for perennial fruit crops
    • Optimizing soil health for weed, disease, and insect pest management
    • Improvement and expanded use of quantitative measurements of soil health, such as Cornell’s CASH protocol (http://soilhealth.cals.cornell.edu)
    • On-farm demonstrations, educator-farmer and farmer-to-farmer training
Goals & Priorities - 3

Integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation research, outreach, and policy with soil health programming

Policy:

  • Integrate soil health programming with climate change policy initiatives, such as the “natural and working lands” component of the U.S. Climate Change Alliance, and expand support for the Climate Resilient Farming component of the state Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) framework
  • Provide grant or cost-share support to focus on soil health management for meeting New York climate change resiliency and mitigation goals

Research and outreach:

  • Develop statewide education programming regarding the benefits of soil health for climate change mitigation and resiliency of our food system
  • Expand research and outreach for supporting adoption of soil health practices for:
    • Resilience to drought, flooding, and erosion
    • Reducing emissions of nitrous oxide and methane, as well as carbon dioxide
    • Soil carbon sequestration, including:
      • Establishing soil carbon baselines and potential for sequestration at farm, regional, and state levels
      • Developing low-cost approaches to monitoring soil carbon change
      • Supporting basic research on factors leading to long-term carbon storage
      • Scaling up production and use of biochar for carbon sequestration
Goals & Priorities - 4

Integrate water and nutrient management research, outreach, and policy with soil health programming

Policy:

  • Further integrate soil health programming within conservation planning and cost-share opportunities of the state AEM framework, including nutrient management planning for Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) regulated by NYSDEC
  • Fund and create incentives to support research and new business ventures focused on developing value-added soil amendments, including composts, biochar and other products, from manure and other sources
  • Work with NYSERDA and other state programs to expand research, policies, and incentives to encourage on-farm energy generation from manure waste

Research and outreach:

  • Address unique soil health challenges and opportunities for dairy and other mixed crop-animal production systems with expanded research and outreach for:
    • Optimized seasonal distribution of manure waste on crop lands
    • Quality control and scaling up production of manure products such as compost and nutrient-enriched biochar
    • New approaches to commercialize manure distribution (e.g., manure banks)
    • Reducing investment and management costs for anaerobic digesters
  • Integrate soil health with optimized management of nitrogen and other nutrients, including the emerging “4R Nutrient Stewardship” program
  • Establish a research and outreach program focused on soil health economic benefits related to water quality and management, including (but not limited to):
    • Nutrient loading to waterways and harmful algal blooms (HABs)
    • Soil erosion and sedimentation of waterways
    • Drainage and flood control
    • Reduced irrigation needs on healthy soils
  • Develop statewide education programming regarding the benefits of soil health for maintaining water quality for recreational use and a safe drinking water supply
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