Press Releases

ICYMI: LCVEF and NSAC Host Farm Expo and Roundtable Highlighting the Importance of Funding for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Mar 15, 2024

Washington, D.C– In case you missed it, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCVEF) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) hosted a Farm Expo and Roundtable on Thursday featuring Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and USDA Under Secretary of Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie, as well as seven farmers from six states, to highlight the importance of maintaining funding for climate-smart agriculture.

“It’s important to hear from the farmers and ranchers themselves about how these important programs not only benefit them, but also improve water quality and soil health, and increase the resiliency and productivity of our food system,” said Madeleine Foote, LCVEF Deputy Legislative Director. “These popular programs are continually oversubscribed, so it is critical to strongly fund them so that every farmer that wants to engage in climate-friendly practices is able to do so.”

“Today’s expo shows exactly why USDA conservation programs are so popular – from supporting livelihoods and productivity to cleaner water and climate mitigation, farmers and ranchers nationwide can realize an array of benefits from implementing climate-smart agriculture practices,” said NSAC Policy Director Mike Lavender.  “That’s why it’s critical to continue to protect the immensely popular climate and conservation funding within the Inflation Reduction Act.”

“Farmers know robust funding for the popular, voluntary conservation practices that were on display today is critical to the future of their farms,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow. “The climate crisis is hitting their bottom line, devastating rural communities, and threatening the future of American agriculture. I am committed to protecting this funding and providing farmers and rural communities with the tools they need to confront the climate crisis.”

“We want to make sure producers know, whether they measure their farm in square feet or acres, or they farm in the country or in the middle of the city, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has conservation assistance,” said USDA Undersecretary of Conservation Robert Bonnie. “Through the historic funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act for climate-smart agriculture, USDA is increasing access to its oversubscribed conservation programs, which will help hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers apply conservation to millions of acres of land. These funds will provide direct climate mitigation benefits and will expand access to financial and technical assistance for producers to advance conservation on their farm, ranch or forest land. We will maximize climate-smart benefits through the funds provided through the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as through our existing farm bill conservation programs, utilizing the latest science, expanded capacity, and coordination with critical and new partners, all the while continuing to advance the voluntary and locally led nature of NRCS conservation assistance. We encourage all who have natural resource concerns, including producers who haven’t worked with us before, to consider applying.”


Farmer and Rancher Biographies

Raymond Kelley (Faulkner County/Conway, Arkansas) operates the Cheyenne Cattle Ranch, which includes over 300 acres of pastures and 16-to-18 rotational tracks that are supported by NRCS programs. Raymond started ranching with three cows on seven acres when he was 17 years old. He has completed multiple Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts in alignment with conservation practices such as the implementation of cool season grasses, cross-fencing, a well, watering tanks, rotational grazing, heavy-use area, electric fencing, and a pond.

Jim Stone (Ovando, Montana) and his family have been involved in NRCS conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program for about four decades. Jim owns and operates the 2,400-acre Rolling Stone Ranch and serves as Chairman of the Blackfoot Challenge, which convenes local stakeholders to exchange information, resources, and assistance to protect wildlife habitat and conserve the lands and natural resources in the Blackfoot watershed region.

Joel Layman (Cass and Berrien Counties, Michigan) is an eighth-generation farmer and rancher who left the industry only to come back and build his own operation from scratch. Layman Farms currently has 2,200 acres, all certified organic, raising grains, vegetables, hay and livestock. Joel has aggressively adopted technology, and have utilized USDA conservation programs to the extent possible, including contracts for cover crops, a grazing plan (in approval stages) and a manure stack shed and agrichemical handling facility. Layman Farms currently has three applications submitted for Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Organic Transition Initiative.

Mark Isbell (England, Arkansas) and his family run the 3,500-acre Isbell Farms, where they have used sustainability practices for rice farming since the 1970s, when his father, Chris, began using the practice of Zero Grade Farming. Along with alternate wetting and drying of rice fields, Isbell rice farms reduce methane emissions by 67 percent and use half the water a normal farm would use. Isbell Farm conservation practices, including precision nutrient management and biodiversity habitat improvements, are supported by the Conservation Stewardship Program.

Maggie Hanna (Fountain, Colorado) is a fourth-generation rancher that has used USDA conservation funding for the installation of cross-fencing, gated pipe irrigation, and water infrastructure that allowed her to maintain livestock throughout the recent droughts. Maggie has found that these conservation practices have allowed for more functional and less laborious land management. Her and her family have also placed part of their land into a conservation easement, which allows continued ranching but prevents more intense development.

John Painter (Westfield, Pennsylvania) and his family operate an organic dairy farm that was established in 1940 and consists of 450 cows over about 5,000 acres. Funding from USDA programs has allowed them to invest in rotational grazing and water infrastructure projects to better serve their cattle. John’s two daughters launched a business that leverages the farm’s soil health and regenerative practices to produce USDA certified organic yogurt.

Paul Danbom (Turlock, California) is a fifth-generation farmer that grows hay, cattle feed, and almonds. He also manages 900 heads of dairy cows and has adopted alternative manure management practices that suspend the solid matter and oxygenate the liquids to minimize methane release. The end products are then used for field irrigation and composting, which helps displace the need for nitrogen fertilizer on the farm’s almond orchards and therefore reduce the contamination of nitrates in groundwater.