Ben Thomas, former director of the Montana Department of Agriculture and also a former deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has joined the Environmental Defense Fund, or EDF, as senior policy director. In In this newly created position, he will "pursue policy solutions that help farmers and ranchers build climate and economic resilience," the Environmental Defense Fund said in a written statement.

"I was raised on a cotton and peanut farm in West Texas, and I know how critical farm policy can be in keeping family farms going through the worst of times,” Thomas said in the statement. "In my years of work in state and federal government, I’ve also seen good ideas fail because they didn’t work on the ground. EDF has shown real leadership in supporting policies that benefit America’s farmers and ranchers, as well as the rural communities they live in. I’m excited to join EDF as we look to take on climate change, one of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing agriculture today.”

According to EDF:

EDF’s Working Lands program aims to create a more resilient and just food system and scale nature-based climate solutions that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resilience. Guided by science and economics, EDF finds solutions that make sense for farmers, ranchers and the environment.

EDF also forges effective partnerships across sectors, such as by co-chairing the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which brings together environmental and agricultural stakeholders like the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, or NASDA, to jointly advocate for climate-smart agriculture legislation.

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“I’m proud to congratulate Ben on his new endeavor at EDF. As a former NASDA member, Ben brings expert insight on how agricultural and environmental policies work at the farm and community level,” Dr. Barb Glenn, CEO of NASDA, said in the statement.

Immediately prior to joining EDF, Ben served as Montana’s director of agriculture. He also held multiple roles at USDA including: deputy undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, chief of staff for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services, special assistant to the administrator for the Risk Management Agency and program specialist for the Farm Service Agency. He also worked as senior adviser, counsel and legislative assistant to Sens. Max Baucus and John Walsh.

The EDF describes itself as "one of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations (that) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union."