Building soil health is key to facilitating resiliency across working lands in the face of a changing climate. However, soil health practices typically require specialized, expensive equipment that many producers do not own. There are no public forms of funding for soil health equipment available in Minnesota, and the private sector options are restricted to financed products and loans. Recognizing this gap and the numerous community and environmental benefits that healthy soil provides, stakeholders came together to advocate for a new grant program to fund soil health equipment.

The Soil Health Financial Assistance Program began as a pilot in 2023. Funding for the pilot program came out of the 2022 legislative session and was only possible thanks to collaboration from leaders across Minnesota’s agricultural industry including the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, the Nature Conservancy, and many others. This broad coalition of support helped build momentum in the legislature for the pilot funding and laid the groundwork for establishing the permanent grant program in the 2023 legislative session.

Program legislation was authored by Rep. Pursell and Sen. Gustafson with their respective agriculture committee chairs Rep. Vang and Sen. Putnam. Demand for the grants has far exceeded available funds, with $6.5 million in requests in 2022 with only $500,000 available. In 2023, total requests exceeded $8 million with about $2.4 million available. This demand clearly demonstrates that Minnesota producers are ready to implement soil health practices in their farming operations, and the Soil Health Financial Assistance Program is helping to eliminate some of the financial barriers and make soil health practice adoption feasible for more producers.

Soil Health Financial Assistance Grant's Interview

Amidst changing weather patterns, building soil health is key to resilient working lands. Proper equipment is often a barrier to farmers adopting practices that build soil health. The Soil Health Financial Assistance Grant allows producers and local government to purchase specialized, expensive soil health equipment, impacting an estimated 245,786 acres. These soil health practices will protect drinking water supply and water quality and create resiliency of farm operations and rural economies.

Rural Vitality Evaluation Team

About the Rural Vitality Category

The Rural Vitality Award recognizes a partnership working to solve community-scale environmental challenges in rural areas. The recognition may include grassroots efforts in revitalization or beautification; alternative land use strategies; convening partners to facilitate community understanding across racial and ethnic difference; or policy initiatives contributing to economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and social justice for an improved quality of rural life.

Local and national clients alike seek Houston Engineering, Inc.’s (HEI) creative and lasting solutions in the areas of water resources, environmental, water supply, urban planning, and technology. As a proud sponsor of this year’s Rural Vitality Award, we remember our own history of offering agricultural services in the Upper Midwest. Our company has been rooted in rural water supply and drainage water management since it was founded in 1968 by George Houston. Today, we continue that early commitment with expanded services and regions. We are inspired by the commonsense solutions that rural partnerships develop to overcome complex challenges.