Connecticut Healthy Soils Policy

NOT PASSED Regenerative Agriculture Program

Dates:

Its first public hearing was held on March, 13th, 2019. Did not pass out of committee.

Legislation:

Act H. 6647: An Act Establishing a Regenerative Agriculture Program

Sponsor/s:

Representative Fred Camillo of the 151st District

Description:

The Act’s intention is to establish a regenerative agriculture program in the state that will improve soil health, conservation, rainwater absorption, drought resiliency and water quality throughout the state of Connecticut.

Independent healthy soil policy consultant Steven Keleti wrote the initial draft of the CT bill in collaboration with the CT branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (CT NOFA) for the 2018 session. Helen Silver helped with legislative research. Jeff Cordulack and Bill Deusing with CT NOFA played a crucial role, particularly in building partner support for the legislation. Lou Burch with Citizens Campaign for the Environment and others also were involved.  The bill did not get on the docket for 2018, due to a backlog of bills.

Soil Health Definition:

As defined by the NRCS Connecticut, “…  the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans”

Stated Goals:

To improve soil health, conservation, rainwater absorption, drought resiliency, and water quality in the state.

Program Required Measurements: 

To be determined 

Tools & Guidance:

To be determined

Funding Source/s:

To be determined

Funding Type/s: 

To be determined

Practices Eligible for Funding:

To be determined

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking Process:

To be determined 

State Universities & Researchers:

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups

  • CT branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (CT NOFA). CT NOFA held the first in a series of Soil Health Field Days across the Northeast.  
  • Helen Silver, JD, of Silver Sustainability strategies assisted with legislative research
  • Jeff Cordulack and Bill Deusing with CT NOFA played a crucial role, particularly in building partner support for the legislation
  • Lou Burch with Citizens Campaign for the Environment and others also were involved
  • Connecticut Resource Conservation & Development

Lessons Learned

  1. Connecticut has predominantly forested land, and land under private ownership. Reforming lawn care and individual landscaping efforts, towards organic, soil-healthy methods, is therefore a huge goal of all CT advocates. 
  2. A few changes were made, the most significant change being changing “regenerative agriculture” to “healthy soils.”
  3. As in other Northeast states, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) was in an excellent position to advocate for healthy soil legislation, as the region’s longstanding lead organization of the organic agricultural movement. Their staff was trained well for the advocacy, and the group has existing capacity to provide soil management assistance to farmers, which can be offered in assistance to the state. 

Media:

N/A


An Act Concerning Certain Soil-related Initiatives

Dates:

  • Filed February 24th, 2021
  • Passed June 5th, 2021
  • Became law on June 16th, 2021

Legislation: 

HB6496

Sponsors: 

Description:

The bill expands the existing statute concerning the function of the Council on Soil and Water Conservation. The council is tasked with advising the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on soil health matters and implementation of related programs. 

The bill also permits the commissioner to authorize soil health research, requires consideration of soil health when updating regulations on soil and water conservation districts and allows the districts to expend financial and technical resources for study and improvement of soil health.

Soil Health Definition:

No definition of soil health is given.

Stated Goals:

The bill states to “encourage healthy soils” as its purpose.

Program Required Measurements:

None specified. The fiscal note mentions that “outside consultants” will be involved to “develop soil health standards in conjunction with other state agencies and external organizations on soil health.”

Tools: 

None specified.

Funding Source:

The bill says that soil and water conservation districts can use existing funding sources, including grants and donations, to advance soil health.

Funding Type:  

None specified.

Practices eligible for funding: 

None specified.

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking process:

N/A

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Lessons Learned:

  • Although this bill does not create any new programs, it opens the door for the work being done on soil health.
  • Additionally, it adds soil health to erosion and sediment control statute, meaning that soil health measures can be required during construction and site stabilization. This is a major change.

Media:

N/A


An Act Concerning Climate Change Adaptation

Dates:

  • Introduced February 11, 2021
  • Passed June 7th, 2021
  • Became law on June 23rd, 2021

Legislation: 

HB6441

Sponsors: 

Description:

This bill includes a section to expand the authority of the Connecticut Green Bank beyond supporting clean energy to include the development of programs to finance and support “environmental infrastructure”, defined as: “structures, facilities, systems, services, and improvement projects related to water, waste and recycling, climate adaptation and resiliency, agriculture, land conservation, parks and recreation, and environmental markets such as carbon offsets and ecosystem services.

Under the bill, “carbon offsets” are activities that compensate for greenhouse gas emissions through an emission reduction. “Ecosystem services” are ecosystem benefits such as provisioning services (e.g., food and water), regulating services (e.g., regulating floods, drought, land degradation, and disease), and supporting services (e.g., soil formation and nutrient cycling).

Soil Health Definition:

N/A

Stated Goals:

The purpose of this expansion of the Green Bank is “to foster the growth, development, commercialization and, where applicable, preservation of environmental infrastructure and related enterprises.”

Program Required Measurements:

None specified.

Tools: 

None specified.

Funding Source:

The bill creates the Environmental Infrastructure Fund within the Connecticut Green Bank. The fund can receive:

  1. charitable gifts, grants, contributions and loans from individuals, corporations, university endowments, and philanthropic foundations; 
  2. earnings and interest from financing support activities backed by the Green Bank; and 
  3. private sources, pursuant to contract.

The bill also allows the fund to receive federal funds that may become available to the state for “environmental infrastructure investments”.

Funding Type:  

Funding may be used to finance environmental infrastructure projects through loans, investments or contracts, and to provide reimbursement of operating and administrative expenses incurred by the Connecticut Green Bank.

Practices eligible for funding: 

None specified.

Agencies Involved:

Rulemaking process:

The Green Bank is tasked with developing a comprehensive plan to include environmental infrastructure projects in its activities.

State Universities & Researchers: 

Agricultural Organizations & Technical Assistance:

N/A

Education & Advocacy Groups:

Lessons Learned:

  • There is growing interest in Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) both regionally and nationally, and HB6441 is a PES bill.
  • Passage of this bill puts a structure in place for funding of soil health initiatives in relation to carbon offsets and ecosystem services as infrastructure and also to fund direct payments for such services.
  • The CT Green Bank has been talking about soils and soil health as fitting right into their programs and is now set up to take advantage of any program that USDA develops along these lines.

Media:

Climate action now to insure Connecticut’s future, The CT Mirror 04/19/2021 –Opinion by DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes and Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais.


Last updated 7/5/21


Questions?

Contact Connecticut@healthysoilspolicy.org