Agencies, organizations, and producers analyze economic, conservation benefits of improved soil quality
BILLINGS, Mont. – From September 2021 through July 2022, a coalition of Montana agencies, organizations, and producers sought input from the state’s ag community about ways that farmers and ranchers can be better supported in managing soils. The project was designed to “increase the pace and scale at which land stewards implement voluntary practices and systems to maintain and improve soil health” in an effort to expand the vitality of agriculture in Montana.
The culmination of the project was a recently published report that documents the findings from surveys, focus groups, and research to inform a series of recommendations. The report can be found at MontanaSoilOutreach.macdnet.
“As farmers and ranchers are hopefully getting a well-deserved rest after a busy season providing food for their communities, we hope they can take some time to look at this valuable resource,” said Bill Milton, a Roundup rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council, one of the organizations who collaborated on the project.
“This report shows that Montana producers value and understand the importance of cultivating healthier soils, and we hope this report makes it easier for folks to find the support needed to implement and expand these practices,” continued Milton.
The report highlights that soil practices are “promising in terms of their economic and ecological benefits” noting that most producers are motivated to increase their yields while they also improve their land and quality of life. It also stresses the importance of support and coordination from differing institutions including universities, agencies, and the private sector.
One of the key takeaways from the report was that producers want to learn from one another. A related recommendation was for Montanans to support opportunities for networking and mentorship across the state.
“We agree that getting folks together to learn from one another is essential to improving soil health,” said Milton. “That’s one reason Northern Plains and other groups have organized ‘soil crawls’ across the state where participants can learn from many producers’ experiences about the practices and principles that yield strong results.”
The report was the culmination of shared coordination and cooperation across many groups, and those involved are enthusiastic about sharing these findings.
“Improving soil health is a win-win situation for everyone,” concludes Milton. “Operations can become more profitable at the same time they become better land stewards. The best news of all is that even small steps can make a big difference on both counts.”