Soil Health

Soil Health Program Background

The passage of HB21-1181 “Agricultural Soil Health Program” in summer 2021 authorizes CDA to run the Colorado Soil Health Program. State stimulus funding provided through SB21-235 will fund the program in 2022. Grant funding is also provided from a section 319 grant through CDPHE, a Water Plan grant from CWCB, and a Conservation Partners Program grant from NFWF, and a Federal CIG grant from NRCS.

Currently, the Colorado STAR and STAR Plus programs together make up the Colorado Soil Health Program. 

Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources (STAR) is an important, innovative, and simple framework that allows 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.

Any Colorado farmer and rancher can now go to the STAR website (see links below) and fill out a STAR field form to receive a STAR Rating. The first 100 participants will receive a free soil health test.
 
Colorado Department of Agriculture launched the STAR Plus program with 131 farmers and ranchers. STAR Plus provides financial and technical assistance to producers as they implement new practices on one field over three years and consider adopting them across their operation. Participants gain familiarity and expertise with new practices and an increased understanding of the environmental and economic outcomes associated with them. STAR Plus also provides significant capacity support, equipment grants, training and other support to conservation districts and eligible entities so that they can provide technical assistance to landowners where and when they need it in a new way. These partners provide the trusted local support and knowledge to ensure producer success.

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Conservation District Participation

Watch Us Grow! The map below shows conservation district participation in the STAR program and funding source.

Yellow: Pilot Program funded through a section 319 grant from CDPHE.
Red: STAR Plus funded through Conservation Partners Program and CWCB Water Plan grants.
Purple: STAR Plus funded through state stimulus funds and an NRCS Conservation Innovation grant.
Blue: Districts covered by another district.