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Heitkamp prioritizes soil health, research

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp spoke about the need for more investment in agriculture research, particularly in soil health, during the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts' annual meeting, according to a news release from her offic...

These white sacks on the roots of legumes are signs that a microbial reaction is enriching your soil with nitrogen -- a good thing for ag producers to know, according to ag researchers. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)
These white sacks on the roots of legumes are signs that a microbial reaction is enriching your soil with nitrogen -- a good thing for ag producers to know, according to ag researchers. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp spoke about the need for more investment in agriculture research, particularly in soil health, during the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts' annual meeting, according to a news release from her office.

"As I talk to farmers and ranchers across the state, it's clear that we need to invest more in research and conservation as we're also improving the safety net programs farmers rely on in times of drought or low commodity prices," Heitkamp said in the release. "After a historic drought impacted the state this summer, farmers and ranchers are keenly aware that good soil health practices can make all the difference for moisture retention and grass production. As we write and negotiate the 2018 Farm Bill, I will continue to fight for programs and policies that will ensure the enrichment and protection of our invaluable soil."

Democrat Heitkamp serves on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee and helped write and pass the 2014 farm bill. Jared Pfliger, Heitkamp's deputy press secretary, said Heitkamp helped include provisions for ag research in that bill, and that she considers soil health research "critically important."

"Senator Heitkamp is a big supporter of making sure the soil is maintained and safe ... because it is one of our top resources in the state," Pfliger said. "It's definitely going to hit farmers and and ranchers hard (if the soil is hurt)."

Heitkamp recently visited the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center as a part of a statewide tour to gather information for the upcoming farm bill debate, as well as to hear more about how the recent drought affected farmers, ranchers and businesses in the western part of the state.

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Kris Ringwall, director of the Dickinson Extension Center, said he's happy to receive all the support he can.

"Any support we can get is great. That support can come from local, state, federal-different aspects of funding," Ringwall said. "Soil health is very expensive and you can't just pick up the dirt and (see how healthy it is). There's a lot of different things going on with the soil."

The Extension Center's soil research has already found that proper soil health and care can reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides and be economically and environmentally better for farmers. It is integral for agriculture to succeed, Ringwall said.

"Soil health is just one of many programs, but soil is the basis of agriculture," he said. "The more we can understand soil, the better we can make it work for us. It's the heart of our research right now."

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Heidi Heitkamp

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMPSOIL HEALTH
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