Healthy soil, healthy life

Over 85 years ago, on April 14, 1935, an ominous wall of blowing sand and dust swept across the Great Plains. This day is known in history as Black Sunday.

During the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, dust storms ravaged the Midwest because of years of overplanting, poorly managed crops and severe drought conditions. I’m happy to report that things are better today thanks in part to the work the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service does every day with Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers.

Even in spite of our extremely dry conditions and intense winds so far this spring, Nebraska looks nothing like it did nearly 90 years ago. In response to Black Sunday, and the Dust Bowl, Congress passed Public Law 74-46 on April 27, 1935, stating “soil erosion is a menace to the national welfare …”

This law established the Soil Conservation Service, now USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. Since that time, our commitment to soil science and soil health has helped America’s private landowners implement locally led, voluntary, science-based conservation practices that protect and improve soil and other natural resources.

Healthy soils are the foundation of agriculture, and in Nebraska, agriculture is the foundation of our entire economy. In the face of mounting challenges such as a growing global population, climate change and extreme weather events, soil health is critical to our future. On behalf of America’s agency for soil conservation, I want to thank the farmers, ranchers, and all of our nation’s conservationists who are doing their part to conserve our precious natural resources every day.

—Rob Lawson is Nebraska state conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.