FPC Shares Recommendations on Urban Soils with Congresswoman Fudge for 2012 Farm Bill

Members of the FPC shared recommendations with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, member of the House Agriculture Committee and her staff at a Farm Bill 2012 Roundtable on May 23rd in Geauga County.   Ideas about how to support urban agriculture through healthy soils and farmers' markets were presented.  Here are the recommendations for creating healthy soils for urban agriculture and the role USDA and the Farm Bill can play in supporting these efforts. We'll share the farmers market recommendations in a future post.

Soil Issues Related to Gardening and Farming in Urban Communities

Current Issues

 

  • There are currently no definitive, industry standards for soil contamination levels safe for food production.There are also no U.S. Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture standards to regulate the quality of soil as a growing medium for food.
  • Soil testing practices and requirements vary drastically around the country, with some organizations testing only for agronomic parameters and others conducting full metal panel testing.
  • Depending on the type of soil test, the cost for this varies drastically. Some testing costs are prohibitive to individuals and groups aspiring to develop urban gardens or farms.
  • Interpreting soil testing results and being able to understand and implement best management practices that can significantly reduce the risk from multiple exposure pathways continue to be challenges experienced by the rapidly growing number of new, inexperienced urban gardeners and farmers.
  • There is a strong need for ongoing, applied research to study the longer-term impacts of current best management practices as well as identify new methods that can reduce both risks and bioavailability due to historical contaminants.

 

Recommendations

 

  • Adopt and utilize a validated and cost effective agricultural nutrient soil test to screen for lead and other historical contaminants.
  • Utilize the national Extension System as an expert, local resource for helping citizens interpret their soil testing results and understand/implement best management practices to address lead and other historical contaminant issues.
  • Develop and utilize an urban agricultural framework that provides a tiered approach to screening levels (i.e. low, moderate, high) and recommends prescriptive soil treatments and management practices that reduce risks of exposure and blood lead levels.
  • Support further applied research to enhance current and develop new urban agricultural practices that produce safe and healthy foods, including specialty and preventative health plants and crops.

 

Special thanks to Dr. Nicholas Basta, School of Environment & Natural Resources, Ohio State University and Marie T. Barni, OSU Extension, Cuyahoga County for developing and sharing these recommendations 

Working Group(s): 
Land Use & Planning