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Serving: Central

Conservation group discusses voluntary stewardship

RIPE100 farmer-leaders talk about its goals.

“We want to make agriculture better for American farmers,” says John Boyd Jr., a member of the Rural Investment to Protect Our Environment or RIPE’s Steering Committee and a farmer from Mecklenburg County in Virginia.

Boyd and his wife, Kara, were among several farmer-leaders interviewed for a series of videos featuring members of RIPE, including Curt Mether, an Iowa farmer who is president of the organization’s board of directors.

“If you’re good to the land, the land will always be good to you,” said Boyd, who is also founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association. “We see this as the right opportunity and the right people at the table. That’s what agriculture should be about – working together and bringing the minds together.”

RIPE is proposing to pay farmers $100 per acre for voluntary stewardship practices that can improve soil health and increase the amount of carbon being stored in the soil rather than released into the atmosphere.

Voluntary stewardship

“It is basically a program that allows growers to earn $100 an acre for voluntary stewardship practices like so many across the country are already doing,” said Jamie Powers, director of agricultural outreach for RIPE.

“There’s a lot of concern for the administrative burden for these programs, but we work hard to make sure that whatever we end up with has a much lower barrier to entry,” he said.

“We want to hand a healthy farm down to our kids, and RIPE can help with that,” said Mether, who farms in western Iowa, is a former president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and has been active in the Iowa Soybean Association and other farm groups.

“My wife and I have 11 grandkids, and that is kind of a crop,” he noted. “Farming is a lifestyle, as well as a business, and it is such a neat deal to have your family grow up working with you. One of the things that worries me is that if it is regulatory you don’t know what rules are going to be written. So if we can get enough farmers on this and keep it voluntary, I think it will be a lot better than one size fits all. That never really works for agriculture.”

“Most minority farms are much smaller, and the fact there’s not a minimum amount of acre to be enrolled – I think that’s inclusive and allows farmers of limited resources to be able to come to the table.”

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