Soil task force sets foundation for future operations

This graphic, created by Nebraska Healthy Soils Task Force Chair Keith Berns, depicts the pillars upon which the task force shall build.

Nebraska Healthy Soils Task Force Chairman Keith Berns of Bladen, gave the group something to think about at its September meeting – it’s second since forming the board in April. He wanted them to set a mission for the group going forward.

Berns presented a graphic he had designed portraying the process by which the task force may develop “a mission statement, initiative and action plan.”

The assembly also compiled a list of key points that they felt should be included in the mission statement, aiming to keep a positive voice while selling the benefits of healthy soils. They intend to do this without putting new regulations on farmers and ranchers.

“I volunteered for the task force because of the benefits our ag producers can reap as a result of healthy soil practices,” said Sen. Julie Slama who represents Nebraska Legislature District 1. “If we can encourage these practices to grow statewide, it will be for the benefit of all of our farmers.”

Members were assigned to research healthy soils activities taking place in other states across the country.

“There is a lot of soil health activity going on in many states – and the programs and the focus is as varied as the states are,” Berns said.

Many states are focusing on watershed level projects that are trying to accomplish a specific environmental goal. The chairman said that through the many reports, two common threads appeared: Education is key and using cover crops to achieve soil health goals is almost universal. Cover crops seem to be the first, easiest and most effective way to begin to accomplish soil health goals, he found.

Berns realizes farmers won’t adopt soil health practices if they are not economically sustainable. For that reason, the task force formed an economics committee to study the costs and returns involved for producers.

“They will be looking at research already done by both university studies as well as the Nebraska On-Farm Research network,” Berns said. “Research gaps will be identified and recommendations for future projects will be made.”

Jon Burleson can be reached at

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