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Colorado Soil Health Program Background

Field of bright green maturing cover crops.

The passage of HB21-1181 “Agricultural Soil Health Program” in 2021 authorized CDA to run the Colorado Soil Health Program. The legislation also created the Soil Health Advisory Committee State stimulus funding provided through SB21-235 funded the program in 2022. Grant funding in 2022 and 2023 also came from a section 319 grant through CDPHE, a Water Plan grant from CWCB, and a Conservation Partners Program grant from NFWF, and a Federal Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS.

In 2022, CDA received a $25 million Climate Smart Commodities grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the Colorado Soil Health Program program over four years.

The Colorado Soil Health Program utilizes the Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources (STAR) framework. STAR helps farmers and ranchers to evaluate their current production system, identify areas for improved management to increase soil health, document their progress, and share their successes. The evaluation system assigns points for management activities on an annual basis and scores are converted to a 1 to 5 STAR Rating, with 5 STARs indicating commitment to a suite of practices proven to improve soil health, water quality and water availability.

Originally developed by Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) in Illinois, STAR is now also administered in several states. In Colorado, STAR evaluates 11 different cropping systems and grazing lands for soil health.