Workshop examines economics of soil health

Aug. 20, 2015: In this International Year of Soils, much attention is being directed to soils and soil health. While scientists explore soil composition and characteristics, more work needs to be done to understand the public and private economic benefits of  healthy soils.
A Soil Renaissance workshop Sept. 21-22, 2015, will bring economists and scientists together to examine the economics of soil health. The workshop is also targeted to landowners and those interested in public policy developments related to soil and soil health.
“We understand the value and benefits of healthy soils in maintaining productive natural resource systems. But we have little research-based evidence of the economic impacts to landowners and benefits to the public of building and maintaining health soils,” says Neil Conklin, President of Farm Foundation, NFP. “As we broaden understanding of the value of healthy soils and discuss public policy options that impact soil health practices, it is important to understand the economic factors and benefits.”
A collaboration of Farm Foundation, NFP and USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the workshop will take place in the First Floor Auditorium of the ERS Building, Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E. Street SW, Washington, D.C.
At the workshop, participants will explore questions concerning the public and private economic benefits of healthy soils, and whether incentives are properly aligned for land managers to make rational short- and long-term decisions about their soil. Quantifying environmental benefits resulting from the adoption of soil health practices will also be discussed.
There is no fee to attend the workshop but registration is required as space is limited. A program agenda and online registration are available at the Farm Foundation website.

The program will begin at 1 p.m. Sept. 21, with a reception 6 to 8 p.m. that evening at the Holiday Inn Capitol. Sessions will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.
There will be a poster session as part of the reception on Sept. 21. To participate, please contact Maria Bowman at ERS, or Brook Gaskamp at Noble Foundation.

A block of sleeping rooms is available at the Holiday Inn Capitol at the rate of $249 plus tax per night. Make reservations by calling 202-479-4000, or by using THIS LINK. The group code is S9S. For the block rate, reservations must be made by close of business Friday, Aug. 21.

Farm Foundation, in collaboration with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, is leading the Soil Renaissance, a multi-year endeavor to focus attention on the role of healthy soils in feeding a growing world while maintaining and protecting natural resources. The economics of soil health is one pillar of the Soil Renaissance, along with measurement, research and education.
Soil health is also a major focus of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service through its program, Unlocking the Secrets in the Soil. This focus on soil health emphasizes how soil as a complex, living ecosystem supports agricultural production and provides public and private ecosystem services.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has designated 2015 the International Year of Soils to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of healthy soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.
For more information:
 Maria Bowman, USDA Economic Research Service
 Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation, NFP, (630) 571-9393
 Brook Gaskamp, Noble Foundation, (580) 224-6510