Detrimental 4″ topsoil rule change proposed during International Year of Soils

This Tuesday, August 11, the Administrative Rules Review Committee will meet to consider a proposed change approved by the Environmental Protection Commission earlier this summer to Iowa’s Topsoil Preservation Rule. If adopted, the amendment would eliminate the current rule that mandates developers put a minimum of 4” of topsoil back onto construction sites, replacing it with vague, unenforceable language. If approved, this change could have negative repercussions for Iowa’s land and waterways. The Council has submitted comments opposing the change. The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in Room 103 at the Iowa State Capitol and is open to the public.

It is easy to overlook the importance of soil health, however, to do so would be a mistake with far-reaching impacts. Beyond supporting Iowa’s widespread agricultural productivity and associated industries, healthy soil can have significant impacts on a variety of environmental and health issues.

In particular, healthy soil retains water better than degraded soils, helping to decrease the risk and severity of flooding. Healthy soil also supports a host of microorganisms and nutrient cycling processes that help keep nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil for longer, resulting in less synthetic application and runoff of fertilizers and other chemicals, which improves water quality. Healthy soil also results in less particulate matter in the air, improving the air quality for surrounding areas.

It is ironic that this proposal comes before the legislative Rules Review Committee during the International Year of Soils, an event that aims to celebrate soil and raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for food systems, agriculture and the environment. In support, earlier this year state lawmakers adopted House Resolution 31, which recognizes the importance of managing Iowa’s precious soils.

Whether advocating for the importance of replacing topsoil on construction sites, or advocating for long-term, sustainable funding for the conservation programs that help keep Iowa’s soils healthy, protecting and preserving all of Iowa’s soils is important. Now is the time for Iowa to cement its commitment to healthy soil and protect this valuable resource that serves as the foundation for so much of our state’s productivity and prosperity.

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