Today, on World Soil Day, the Soil Renaissance celebrates a year of progress in advancing soil and soil health, and joins in the kickoff of the International Year of Soils.

The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils (IYS) to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of healthy soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. The celebration officially begins today, Dec. 5, which is World Soil Day.

Launched on Dec. 5, 2013, the Soil Renaissance is a movement to make soil health the cornerstone of land use management decisions, and bring attention to the critical role of healthy soils in vibrant natural resource systems. The Soil Renaissance is led by Farm Foundation, NFP and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

In its first year, farmers, ranchers, educators, researchers, suppliers, NGOs, foundations and government agencies have joined the Soil Renaissance with their expertise and support. "Collaboration has been the linchpin to our success so far," said Farm Foundation President Neil Conklin. "The multitude of challenges in understanding healthy soils requires many hands at work. No single person or organization can fully address the diverse and complex issues of soil health across the nation and the world."

The Soil Renaissance has begun implementing a Strategic Plan that focuses on four foundational issues key to all aspects of soil health work: a standard for measuring soil health; economic tools to assess the value of soil health; identifying research needs; and education and outreach. Teams of experts from across the United States have formed working groups around these four areas, and are working to accomplish important goals.

"Soil health is a key factor in any agricultural production system, whether conventional or organic. Yet soil is too often ignored or overshadowed by other factors," said Noble Foundation President Bill Buckner. "It is critical that we listen to the producers who are earlier adopters of soil health initiatives, and work closely with researchers, policymakers and industry experts to ensure our soils are protected and sustained for future generations."

During IYS, the Soil Renaissance will partner with the Soil Science Society of America to bring attention to the importance of soil and soil health.

The Soil Renaissance serves as a central hub through which interested parties can gain new information about measurement and economic tools, research gaps to be filled and ways they can help. To stay current on all the latest developments, view the complete strategic plan or sign up for the Soil Renaissance newsletter, visit www.soilrenaissance.org.