On January 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) kicked off the International Year of Soil, a campaign aimed at bringing attention to the integral role soils play in food production, water quality, climate change and ecosystems as well as farm and ranch resiliency. More precious than oil – soil has no substitute and takes hundreds of years to form just a few centimeters. The International Year of Soils, according to FAO, will aim to bring awareness to policy makers and the public about the importance of soil in food security, climate adaptation and mitigation, sustainable development and poverty alleviation. While scientific understanding of soil has progressed significantly, soil and fertile land is now being lost at an alarming rate due to erosion, urbanization, and modern farming practices.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack commented on the year of soils, stating, "Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century." Battling soil erosion and broader failure to recognize the importance of soil health is nothing new. After the Dustbowl, Congress recognized “the wastage of soil and moisture resources on farm, grazing, and forest lands . . . is a menace to the national welfare" and passed a law (P.L. 74-46) that created the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). Yet, despite the efforts of USDA, the National Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) and individual farmers, erosion alone still costs the U.S. farming sector $38 billion per year, according to a 2006 Cornell University study.
For more information see:
2015 International Year of Soils, UN FAO