The scope of U.S. state soil health legislation

A mixed-methods policy analysis




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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Author Biographies

Madison Delmendo, University of Washington

MS, RD; Nutritional Sciences Program, School of Public Health

Yona Sipos, University of Washington

Ph.D.; Nutritional Sciences Program, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health

David Montgomery, University of Washington

Ph.D.; Department of Earth and Space Sciences

Ryan Cole, Oregon State University

MS; OSU Water Resources Graduate Program, College of Forestry

Jennifer Otten, University of Washington

Ph.D., RD; Nutritional Sciences Program, Center for Public Health Nutrition, Depart­ment of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health



How to Cite

Delmendo, M., Sipos, Y., Montgomery, D., Cole, R., & Otten, J. (2021). The scope of U.S. state soil health legislation: A mixed-methods policy analysis. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(3), 69–90.