Merkley, Wyden, Salinas Lead Bicameral Legislation to Invest in Regenerative Agriculture

Bill will create a training program and curriculum to ensure farmers and ranchers have access to information and tools to navigate degraded lands, increase profitability and resilience to extreme weather events

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Representative Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06) are leading the bicameral Soil Conservation And Regeneration Education (Soil CARE) Act. Farmers, ranchers, and federal land personnel continue to face ongoing challenges to their land from extreme weather events like floods and droughts. This bill would ensure producers have the latest information and tools available to help rebuild degraded lands, reduce reliance on inputs, and increase profitability and resilience to extreme weather. Salinas will introduce the House version of this bill next week.

“Dynamic lands and ecosystems have defined Oregon for ages and have supported Oregon’s world-class agriculture industry,” said Merkley. “As climate chaos continues to make the West hotter and dryer, it’s important our farmers, ranchers, and land stewards have the resources and tools needed to keep their lands adaptable and resilient. This bill is a necessary step in keeping supporting farmers and ranchers across America.”

“Farmers across the country continue to feel the devastating effects of the climate crisis. It is essential they be equipped with the tools they need to fully benefit from existing federal programs that will help,” Wyden said. “As the author of the Soil Health Demonstration Trial program in the last Farm Bill, I am all in for providing more tools to improve the resiliency of crops and the health of our planet.”

“As we continue to suffer the effects of extreme weather in Oregon, it’s critical that our local farmers and producers have the tools they need to adapt. That includes helping them implement the latest regenerative agriculture and soil health management practices,” said Congresswoman Salinas. “This legislation will ensure USDA personnel and third-party service providers are properly trained and equipped to help producers rebuild degraded lands and increase profitability and resilience.”

Training and education regarding regenerative agriculture has been critically underfunded, but education and technical support are crucial components to successfully implementing conservation efforts in the country. The Soil CARE Act invests in expanded technical assistance and provides U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff and personnel with the latest knowledge, tools, and innovations to help producers produce and boost healthy soil. Next week, Salinas will introduce companion legislation in the House.

The Soil CARE Act would:

  • Develop and deliver curriculum within one year of passage;
  • Develop a nationally-available online training curriculum;
  • Encourage all relevant USDA personnel (NRCS and TSPs) to complete online training within three years of the Farm Bill passage;
  • Hold annual soil health workshops and training sessions;
  • Dedicate resources to providing required continuing education for all NRCS and TSPs; and
  • Require NRCS to use the training curriculum to develop soil health education materials for producers. 

The Soil CARE Act is endorsed by over 180 organizations and businesses, including OrCAN (Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network) and Oregon Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), as well as members of the Regenerate America coalition which includes Kiss the Ground, the American Sustainable Business Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Green America, and Earthjustice.

“Farmers and ranchers across the country are proving that through biological soil health management and regenerative practices such as cover crops, no-till, and holistic grazing, they can build healthy soil faster than ever thought possible–reducing costly chemical inputs, sequestering carbon, lessening impacts from floods and droughts, and increasing biodiversity. But while producers are ready to adopt these approaches, they don’t have access to the education and training needed to do so. The Soil CARE Act would provide the much-needed training to NRCS staff and technical service providers, so they can better support and train farmers and ranchers. We are grateful to Senators Merkley, Wyden, and Congresswoman Salinas for their leadership on soil health as a key solution to the climate, health, and water crises we face,” said Finian Makpeace, co-founder of Kiss the Ground, convener of the Regenerate America Coalition.

Bill text, as introduced in the Senate, can be found here.

A bill summary can be found here.


This press release has been updated.