Debbie Barker and Michael Pollan, in their Dec. 6 Outlook essay, “A secret weapon to fight climate change: Dirt,” correctly argued that improving soil health can help fight climate change. The authors should know, however, that American farmers have made great strides.
I’ve farmed for 40 years in the Mississippi River Basin. I’m part of the Soil Health Partnership, a National Corn Growers Association initiative bringing together commodity, academic and environmental groups to identify, test and measure practices that improve soil health. Yes, economics matter in farming, like in any business. That’s why the Soil Health Partnership collects data to show farmers how cover crops, conservation tillage and nutrient management can benefit the environment and their bottom lines.
The Agriculture Department says a fourth of U.S. farmers have adopted no-till practices and more than half, including me, use some sort of conservation tillage. Seed sales records show there are cover crops on about 2 million acres, including on my farm. We want to see this grow, but progress has been made.
Government policies should incentivize soil health, but we should also acknowledge that modern technology has made farming more precise and efficient. While we have important work to do in sustainably feeding and fueling a growing world, I’m encouraged to see more farmers working to become better stewards of the land, wanting to leave it improved for future generations. I hope next time Ms. Barker and Mr. Pollan recognize this. Let’s sow unity, not division.
Tim Smith, Eagle Grove, Iowa