Sen. Brenner bill to support healthy soil in Maine wins bipartisan committee support

Posted: March 16, 2021 | Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Senator Brenner

AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, a bill from Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, to help support healthy soil management practices across the state was approved by the Legislature’s Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. LD 437, “An Act To Establish The Maine Healthy Soils Program,” received a unanimous vote of ought to pass as amended, with three members absent.

Sen. Stacy Brenner

“Soil is the foundation of all farming. This bill is designed to set up a framework to last beyond our lifetime as legislators and beyond the current administration. It is written to place our stamp of value on

the importance of soil as a resource that is deserving of strong collaboration between our state government and its great farmers,” said Sen. Brenner, who is the co-owner of Broadturn Farm in Scarborough. “I’m grateful to the committee for supporting this bill and its investment in Maine’s future.”

LD 437 would establish the Maine Healthy Soils Program. Administered by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, in consultation with the University of Maine and University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the program would provide resources, offer education and connect farmers with information on best practices to maintain healthy soil.

A “healthy soil” can be measured in different ways, but in general healthy soils have high amounts of organic matter that hold water and nutrients, support a diverse soil microbiological environment, increase crop yields, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

“We know that farmers across the management spectrum share our commitment to protecting soil health and we are very happy that this incentives-based non-regulatory program will be available to all Maine farmers, providing much needed technical support, peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and access to funding to implement practices suited to their specific soil types and sectors,” said Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, in testimony supporting the bill.

“LD 437 would further this critical climate plan strategy of creating greater support for farmers by establishing a program within the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry that connects farmers with key resources and equips them with the tools and knowledge they need to begin voluntarily using healthy soil practices,” said Ellen Griswold of Maine Farmland Trust, in testimony supporting the bill. “Over the last couple of years, and especially after the terrible drought conditions last year, an increasing number of farmers want to know more about soil health and how it can benefit their farms.”

Sen. Brenner is a first-generation farmer and has been farming in Maine for 20 years. She owns Broadturn Farm in Scarborough with her husband John, and at peak season, their staff grows to 10 full and part-time employees. In addition to farming, Sen. Brenner is also a certified nurse-midwife.

LD 437 now faces votes in the Maine Senate and House.