The Pennsylvania Natural Resources Conservation Service is responding to Soil health practices increasingly helping farmers hit pay dirt, June 2020. The article contained a quote from Mark Goodson, NRSC state agronomist, that was taken out of context. The context was that PA NRCS, Penn State University and conservation districts were slow to promote soil health principles compared with nongovernmental organizations and other private industries.

On the contrary, PA NRCS has recognized healthy soil as the foundation of prosperous farms and healthy water since the agency’s inception in 1935. Together with its partners, PA NRCS has been a proponent of healthy soils for decades. When the soil health grassroots effort began in the 1990s and early 2000s, PA NRCS created technical publications with PSU to advise farmers on adding organic matter, improving aggregate stability, reducing tillage and minimizing compaction. Both financially and technically, PA NRCS supported the development of groups like the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance and Pennsylvania Grazing Coalition.

Today, PA NRCS hosts 3,000-5,000 producers annually at PA soil health events that take place locally, regionally and statewide. Working with Penn State Cooperative Extension and local conservation districts, those events have included hands-on demonstrations, pasture walks and training. This has precipitated more than 1.6 million acres of soil health practices on PA landscapes since 2002 with a commitment of approximately $479 million.

Today, there are many new opportunities in soil health. In fiscal year 2020 and beyond, producers may take advantage of soil health testing, financial assistance for soil health assessments and soil health enhancements. PA NRCS continues to fund soil health-related practices through its Conservation Innovation Grants, including demonstration trials, a soil health benchmark study, carbon markets, grazing of annuals / perennials, cover crop interseeding and nutrient management. PA NRCS has also begun using field level Pasture Condition Scoring.

PA NRCS has long recognized healthy soil as the foundation for working lands in our state. Together with our partners and customers, we will continue to invest in soil health and conservation.

Denise Coleman

NRCS state conservationist

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