The Nebraska Elder Climate Legacy group (ECL) thanks Senator Timothy Gragert for his leadership and tenacity in steering LB 243 the healthy soils bill through the Legislative process. This legislation now law, creates a task force of 15 voting and 2 non-voting members to develop a comprehensive healthy soils Initiative for Nebraska. This law is one successful step in ELC’s vision to promote actions leading to a more sustainable environment for current and future generations.
Over a twelve-month period, the ELC looked at various legislative actions that could be taken to address the impacts associated with a changing climate in Nebraska. One action step selected was to get legislation introduced to improve the health of Nebraska’s soils. Research has shown that rebuilding the soil is not only good for Nebraska agriculture and its consumers, but also good for the environment and addressing climate change. As Dr. Charles E. Kellogg, former Soil Scientist and Chief of USDA's Bureau of Chemistry and Soils once said: “Essentially, all life depends upon the soil…There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together”. The ELC noted that while several different entities were involved in promoting soil health, the rate of adoption of healthy soil practices was insufficient, and more needed to be done, including enhancing awareness and coordination.
Accordingly, the ECL drafted a bill and contacted Senator Gragert, a newly elected Senator and former Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee from Creighton, Nebraska, who agreed to introduce the proposed bill in the first session of the one hundred sixth Legislature. With edits to the draft, the Senator introduced the bill January 14, 2019. Assigned to the Agriculture Committee the proposed legislation, with amendments which further improved the bill, came out of committee and was placed on General file on March 15. Designated by the Senator as his priority bill, it received strong support throughout the three phases of legislative debate and was approved on final reading on April 11 and approved by the Governor on April 17.
Those task force members not specified in law are selected by the Governor. The task force may consult other agencies or organizations in completing its task. It shall hold its first meeting no later than September 1, 2019 and submit its report no later than January 1, 2021 to the Governor and Agriculture Committee. The task force is housed within the Department of Agriculture and shall develop a comprehensive action plan to coordinate efforts to carry out the healthy soils initiative. The plan with issues to examine as specified in statute, is to be implemented via voluntary methods through partnerships among agricultural producers and relevant state and local agencies and other public and private entities.
In the near term the ELC will continue to work to promote and support further legislative actions to address climate change.