Stories from the field

Farmers all over the country are sharing their stories, painting a clear picture of how conservation funding has helped them future-proof their farms, and benefited their lands and businesses.

You can see every story by scrolling down, or view them state by state using the dropdown menu to the left.


In 2022 the share of Arkansas’ GDP generated by agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting ranked 8th overall in the nation. Rising temperatures in the state are aggravating weather events such as droughts and floods, posing severe threats to the state’s agricultural producers. From generations-old rice and cotton operations to newly established farming homesteads, farmers are facing extreme environmental conditions that endangers crops, livestock and livelihoods. USDA programs boost resilience against variable weather to secure farmers’ incomes while enabling them to continue stewarding the land.

Lindi and Jared Phillips

The Phillips run Branch Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Arkansas, where they raise lamb and forested pork. In 2018, they utilized USDA conservation funding for rotational grazing among other sustainable agriculture techniques. They aim to apply for more conservation programs to help them expand their operations.

The USDA program was really crucial. We started to understand the power of rotational grazing. Our input costs have radically gone down because we’re a largely grass-fed operation.

P.J. Haynie

P.J. is a fifth generation farmer farming in Arkansas and Virgina. In 1867, PJ’s great-great grandfather became one of the first African Americans in Virginia to be emancipated from slavery, and bought 60 acres of land - which is still farmed by their family today.

Eight years ago, PJ and his father decided to expand the family’s farming operation in the Mississippi Delta region and founded Arkansas River Rice in Altheimer, Arkansas.

These programs allow farmers to help offset risk, and be more profitable. This 20 billion dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act is a generational investment.

Brandon Cain

Cain Farms Partnership in Griffithville, Arkansas is a corn and soybean operation run by Brandon and his wife, Elsie, their teenaged son Brady and two other employees. Brandon is the third generation in his family to farm, starting his own operation in 2001 and eventually purchasing land that his father and grandfather had stewarded previously.

He was recently granted a contract by the USDA to build a reservoir and a tailwater recovery pit, allowing him to recirculate water used on the farm and significantly reducing his irrigation costs.

Without the funding from the USDA, this land right here would be considered marginal ground. Now, I would say it’s as good as any ground in the state of Arkansas.


The agricultural industry in Colorado contributes $47 billion annually to the state’s economy and employs more than 195,000 people. With devastating wildfires, worsening drought reducing irrigation allotments and declining snowpack cutting seasonal water supplies, farmers and ranchers in Colorado face uniquely precarious conditions. Agricultural producers now grapple with an increasingly unpredictable agricultural economy in the state. USDA programs help Colorado producers increase resilience to these risks and volatility while supporting profitability.

Larry Lempka

Lempka Family Farms in Berthoud, Colorado produces heritage grains, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, and heirloom tomatoes.

Larry used USDA funding to power his irrigation systems on off-grid power sources, which allows his operation to materially save on energy costs - putting the next generation at an advantage to continue a proud legacy of stewardship.

It comes down to what’s gonna help save us some money on the bottom line. This $20 billion in conservation programs is really important to keep farms viable for future generations.

Maggie Hanna

Maggie is a fourth generation rancher who was born and raised on her family's cow-calf operation in Hanover, Colorado. Her father, who was famously regarded as one of Colorado’s founding conservation ranchers, spent his lifetime working to ensure the state resolved to repair its battered grasslands, waterways and soils.

Access to USDA conservation programs have been an asset to Maggie’s operation, providing her the resources to combat recent brutal weather events such as drought. The installation of gated pipeline allowed her to water her herd through many a scorching dry season, and ensures Hanna Ranch is maintained for generations to come.

[USDA programs were] the sole reason that I was able to maintain livestock through the drought. When you’re fighting for the place that you were born and your father is buried, it gives you the bigger picture. To threaten the funding available for all of us is a really dangerous place to play politics.

Justin Lewton

Justin is a 4th generation farmer from Keenesburg, Colorado and is President of the Colorado Wheat Growers Association. In a typical year, his farm produces enough wheat to provide close to 32.4 million loaves of whole wheat bread.

USDA funding allowed Justin to transition his large scale operation to no-till and improve his irrigation systems without suffering major financial risks. He currently has another grant application pending.

These programs allow opportunity for producers that will benefit not just people but the ground we’re taking care of as well.


As frequent extreme weather brings higher temperatures and evaporation rates that exacerbate drought in Georgia, agricultural producers face dwindling water supplies. In 2022, agriculture comprised 5.97% of Georgia’s GDP. USDA programs have proved critical in helping these farmers and ranchers access resources to build resilience and profitability.

Brett and Jason Sauls

Brett and Jason Sauls of Sauls Partnership, a family-owned farm located in Shellman, Georgia, cultivate peanuts and cotton. This multi-generational farm is overseen by Brett's grandmother as the matriarch.

They took time out of their harvest season to talk about how their cost share conservation projects, which include cover crops and installing water sensors, have helped them increase profits while enhancing their commitment to responsible land stewardship.

Last year, we planted cover crops, and we really got into the science of it. Per acre, we’re having savings on tillage cost and fuel from tractors running through the field. It just makes too much sense. I would urge Congress not to remove this funding.This is the lives of a lot of people across the country.

Howard James

Howard runs Jibbs Vineyard in Byromville, Georgia where he grows a wide variety of crops ranging from peanuts and cotton to collard greens and pecans. Howard sells his produce directly from the farm to retail customers.

He has utilized several USDA funding programs to aid his water management, allowing him to maintain his operation through long, scorching summer seasons.

These programs help small farmers to better their production, their practices, at a cost that they can afford. It helps everybody, which means it creates jobs.

Andy Payne

Andy is a fourth generation farmer operating in Weston, Georgia. He produces a diverse mix of row crops, citrus, and beef. Andy and his wife manage A&L Farms with a team of five employees.

USDA funding programs have supported Andy to implement cover crops and increase the efficiency of his water use, which builds the organic matter in his soil and prevents loss of valuable nutrients through erosion. Additional benefits like improved grazing efficiency and field health have helped lower his fuel costs.

We need to be able to count on programs that make us successful for the future. I’m not a political person, but farmers have got a story to tell. And we’re gonna have to tell it before politicians or leaders can understand what’s going on.


In 2022, Montana’s agricultural industry contributed 3.7% of the state’s total GDP. Persistent drought conditions have led to a dangerous increase in wildfire activity in the state, reduced agricultural yields, and closures of public recreational areas. These impacts pose serious risks to the sustainability of farms and ranches, threatening the livelihoods of Montana producers by jeopardizing crop yields and the health of livestock and rangelands. USDA programs have proven critical in helping these farmers and ranchers access resources to build resilience to drought and maintain profitability.

Pete and Len Youngblut

Father and son Len and Pete are corn and soybean producers from Dysart, Iowa. They used USDA funding for cover crops and are re-applying for a contract to implement strip till. They maintain that sustainable farming extends beyond the advantage of reduced chemical use on their land - it also strengthens the American economy.

I do have a fairly conservative view. You’re talking about something that feeds America, builds America. And by allowing farmers that little bit of help, we’re gonna pump money back into the economy.

Jason Russell

The Russell family has farmed in Monticello, Iowa for 60 years. Their farm produces corn, soybeans, cereal rye and pigs.

As the son of a former Soil Conservation Commissioner, Jason is deeply knowledgeable of the benefits USDA funding provides, and has used their programs to implement cover crops and practice nutrient management.

First and foremost, we have to be profitable. If the funding was eliminated, it could hurt farms and families.


Volatile weather patterns in Michigan threaten the livelihoods of family farms across one of America’s most agriculturally diverse states, with 97% of farms being family-owned. Intense rainfall bookending dry summers has led to flooding, soil erosion, and reduced crop yields. The agricultural industry contributes more than $104.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. To protect against mounting environmental pressures, USDA programs provide critical support for farmers in the state by building resilience and maintaining profitability amidst increasingly unpredictable weather, ensuring the continuity of family farms as stewards of Michigan’s agricultural legacy.

John Burk

John is a 3rd generation farmer from Bay City, Michigan where he grows sugar beets, dry beans, corn and wheat. Holding deep knowledge of the importance of soil health, John used USDA conservation finding to implement conservation tillage, filter strips, no-till practices, soil testing and use of cover crops. He’s seen immense benefits, with his sugar beet yields increasing by approximately 20%.

Our sugar beets yields have gone from 18 tons to 30-40 tons now. These practices are really paying off, and all that goes back to not just helping me as a farmer, but it’s helping those folks downstream, too.


Minnesota’s infamous winters are warming, threatening the state’s $21 billion farm economy. Soybean crops have now surpassed corn, wheat and alfalfa as Minnesota’s top cash crop, as rising average temperatures hamper agricultural operations’ ability to cultivate. With extreme heat straining yields, generations-old family farms across Minnesota urgently need assistance adapting to climate pressures. USDA programs are a vital asset, helping Minnesota farmers pivot to meet shifting agricultural demands in an increasingly erratic climate.

Daniel Janski

Janski Farms is a family-run soybean, alfalfa, dairy and beef cattle farm in St. Augusta, Minnesota. USDA funding has supported the Janksi family to implement no till farming, cover crops, and install irrigation water monitoring equipment. Dan Janski shared that utilizing no till alone doubled their farm’s profit margin.

Without [USDA conservation programs], there could be a lot of farms that could just never reap the benefit of what I’ve benefitted here.

Roy Schneider

Roy is a third-generation farmer in Foley, Minnesota, cultivating corn, soybeans, chickens, and beef. He has utilized USDA funding programs for over a decade to implement sustainable practices such as strip-till farming and rotational cattle grazing, as well as underground irrigation. Between lower fertilizer costs and better yield opportunities, Roy believes that sustainable practices are not only smart for farming, they’re smart for business.

There are things that I just don’t have the resources to do alone. That’s where the USDA programs give us that opportunity to try it, to implement it. This next Farm Bill puts money directly into that.


In 2022, Montana’s agricultural industry contributed 3.7% of the state’s total GDP. Persistent drought conditions have led to a dangerous increase in wildfire activity in the state, reduced agricultural yields, and closures of public recreational areas. These impacts pose serious risks to the sustainability of farms and ranches, threatening the livelihoods of Montana producers by jeopardizing crop yields and the health of livestock and rangelands. USDA programs have proven critical in helping these farmers and ranchers access resources to build resilience to drought and maintain profitability.

Cavin Steiger

Cavin is a 4th generation farmer living in Forsyth, Montana with his wife Karly and their 3 children. They farm wheat, pulse crops, sugarbeets, alfalfa and soybeans. As a firm believer in the importance of supporting soil health, Cavin has utilized USDA conservation programs for reduced tillage and purchasing seed drilling equipment to enhance his farm’s conservation efforts - and its profitability.

The 20 billion dollars that was appropriated by Congress for these conservation programs, it’s a way for us to make sure that agriculture in America stays viable for the long term.

Kristen Kipp

Kristen is a cattle rancher, a Women In Ranching board member and single mom living on the Blackfeet Native Reservation in Montana. She utilized USDA conservation funding to provide crucial water and fencing infrastructure for her cattle.

For the producers that are utilizing [USDA] programs, they’re like a buffer zone…They’ve helped me to take care of my family, but also to take care of the land.


As Pennsylvania experiences warmer, rainier seasons and extreme weather, family farms across the state must adapt while remaining profitable. The agriculture industry contributes $132.5 billion to the state’s economy annually and supports more than 593,000 jobs, paying wages totalling $32.8 billion. USDA programs provide critical support to these Pennsylvanian agricultural producers, helping them sustain multi-generational operations while ensuring their economic viability.

Jeff Frey

The Freys run a family farm just south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They grow row crops to be produced into animal feed, raise pigs for another farm in the area, and grow flowers in four on-site greenhouses. Jeff works the farm with his son Ross, his nephew, two employees, and his wife.

He’s been farming for over 50 years and was an early adopter of USDA conservation funding, which he currently utilizes for cover crops and water infrastructure.

For the environment, economically - it’s just the right thing to do. The 20 billion dollars approved through the Inflation Reduction Act - it raises the bar and is important for conservation measures, and for the economic viability of the farm. Conservation farming is not red or blue. It’s not tied to any agenda.

Hayley and John Painter

Painterland Family Farm is a multi-generational, family farm in Tioga, Pennsylvania run by three brothers - John, Brad, & Clinton. Painterland Sisters is a million-dollar millennial-owned organic yogurt company founded by Clinton’s daughters, Hayley and Stephanie Painter.

This video tells the story of how Painterland Farms used support through USDA conservation programs to implement rotational grazing and water infrastructures for their dairy operation, providing high quality milk which Painterland Sisters uses for their rapidly growing yogurt brand.

The investment we make in our conservation practices should not be a dividing issue politically, because you’re investing in food security. So, you’re investing in the next generation.

Tom and T. Rich Croner

Tom Croner is an 81-year old, 8th generation farmer operating a multigenerational grain farm in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Alongside his son, T. Rich, they grow soybeans, wheat, and rye.

The USDA conservation funding helps them afford expensive equipment that would otherwise be unobtainable. Access to federal conservation programs provided the Croners with support for facilitating cover crops and no till that are beneficial both to their soil health and the financial sustainability of their farm.

Conservation is just taking care of what we have and working to maintain it. We’re all stewards of the land. For our farm, [conservation practices provided] a greater return on our investment. We saw significant increases in yield.

South Dakota

Agriculture contributes about $32.1 billion to the economy, accounting for almost 30 percent of South Dakota’s total economic output. Once considered “rare”, extreme weather events are now commonplace for South Dakota’s agricultural producers, posing existential threats to family ranchers and farmers. To help ensure the continuity of local operations, USDA programs provide support to adopt practices that enable agricultural producers across the state to sustain their livelihoods despite mounting climate pressures.

Virgil Two Eagle

Virgil is an Oglala Sioux buffalo rancher on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. At Black Feather Buffalo Ranch, having reliable water available in addition to proper fencing allows him to raise healthier buffalo - and more of them. USDA funding partnerships have provided Virgil the infrastructure to honor and sustain their family’s generations-old ranching tradition.

The buffalo to us, as a people, is everything. It’s really awesome that we have a tribal member as a liaison at the USDA, because with his help I have submitted my application. So, now I can do my cross fencing, I could maybe get a well drilled. The government put that aside for us, $20 billion. And because of that, I can possibly have close to 150 head of buffalo.

Levi and Crystal Neuharth

The Neuharths operate a 2nd generation farm in Fort Pierre, South Dakota producing corn, wheat, dairy and free-range chickens. Several contracts through USDA funding programs allowed them to implement conservation practices improving the health of their pastures and increasing their grazing livestock numbers.

If you can get your ground healthy and working, your bottom line will be a lot better. The funding from the USDA helps get you started down that road.


Wisconsin’s iconic farms and dairies, which in 2021 produced 14% of the nation’s milk supply, face mounting threats as earlier snowmelt leads to flooding each spring followed by parched summers. The agriculture industry in Wisconsin contributes about $105 billion to industrial revenues, 16% of total sales in the state, 12% of jobs and 11% of income – about one in nine people in the state work in a job related to agriculture. Generations-old family operations across the state are struggling to adapt as the changing climate damages crops, stresses livestock, and cripples yields. The USDA provides support to farmers, offering programs which build resilience and maintain profitability.

Jack Herricks

Jack is lifelong conservation farmer in Cashton, Wisconsin. He grows corn for grain and silage and rye for cover crops, and raises dairy cows. John was an early adopter of USDA funding programs to implement contour strips, grassed waterways and develop wildlife shelters. His decades of experience with no till proves that sustainable farming benefits both his cows, his land and his business.

We need to work at keeping that soil in place. USDA programs that we draw on are no till, cover crops - and the soil is as healthy today as it's ever been. If there’s $20 billion allocated for these programs, don’t use that as a political football. That money is important to the American farmer.

Dan Brick

Dan is a 5th generation farmer from Greenleaf, Wisconsin. His family’s farm, Brickstead Dairy, produces dairy and corn for silage. He has partnered with USDA programs for over a decade, utilizing their programs for various purposes such as mineral storage and drainage systems, and for adopting practices like cover crops, no-till planting, and creating habitats for pollinators.

Implementing sustainable farming will not only offset Dan’s fertilizer costs, but also ensure that his sons can inherit healthy ground to one day continue their family’s farming legacy.

When we let the cover crop do our tillage for us, that’s anywhere from $100-150 an acre savings. The 20 billion dollars in the Inflation Reduction Act, we need to keep the funds coming into these practices because we can’t afford the farmer to be hurting.