The scope of U.S. state soil health legislation
A mixed-methods policy analysis
Keywords:Soil Health, Public Health, Legislation, Policy, Policy Analysis
Links between soil health and public health are established and growing in the scientific literature, and soil health bills in the U.S. have increased since 2016, but the extent to which current soil health legislation addresses public health implications has not been examined. Does the scope of current legislation explicitly address links to public health? This question will grow more pressing as population growth places higher demands on soils. In this study, we examine the scope and content of recent soil health legislation and investigate the importance of context, processes, and actors through semistructured interviews with soil health professionals involved with identified bills. Twelve bills from 11 states were analyzed and 10 interviews were conducted. Legislation focused primarily on soils’ capacity to sequester carbon and improve water quality, while public health had minimal representation. Interviews illuminated themes such as climate change motivating bill proposals and recognition of soils as living ecosystems, yet also demonstrated structural and knowledge limitations to including public health in soil health policies. These findings provide a novel perspective on the scope and passage of soil health legislation and demonstrate the opportunity for broader collaboration with public health.
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