March 7, 2014
Last month, 300 agricultural innovators, experts, and leaders convened in Omaha, Nebraska for the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health. This conference was organized to provide a national forum to discuss moving the dial toward a more sustainable American agricultural system by focusing on improving soil health.
Organized by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), attendees included members of the agricultural industry, the farming community, academia, government, commodity groups, and conservation organizations. In conjunction with the conference, Cover Crops and Soil Health Forums took place at over 200 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Extension offices across the country. Approximately 6,000 farmers and agricultural professionals attended the forums to engage in local conversations on cover crops and soil health.
The conference featured remarks from U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency officials, as well as past and present NRCS Chiefs, in addition to plenary and breakout sessions focused on various cover crop issues.
SARE has posted a recording of the opening sessions, which featured national figures and farmer leaders who discussed the benefits of cover crops and barriers to their adoption. Presentations are also available from the breakout sessions, which covered a wide array of issues related to cover crops, including environmental impacts, seeding and terminating advice, and integrating cover crops with conservation tillage or into livestock operations, among others.
The final day of the conference drew from the participants’ collective expertise, who shared experiences and brainstormed around the needs and solutions — such as policy incentives and barriers, research, and education — to help encourage the adoption of practices that promote soil health.
We were pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this national conference and are encouraged by the growing interest among the broader agricultural community to improve soil health through conservation practices, such as cover crops. NSAC has long promoted the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to producers interested in receiving cost-share assistance for the adoption of conservation practices that promote soil health.
NSAC also recently hosted a webinar on the topic of cover crops and crop insurance, which was a hot topic at the national conference. The webinar is archived and available for viewing through the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA program, and a follow up Q&A document based on questions submitted during the webinar is available here.
We look forward to continuing to work with NSAC members and with the broader agricultural community to fashion stronger federal policy approaches to improving soil health and increasing cover crop adoption and agricultural diversification.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment