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Conservation at Work: A Carolina Farmer and the Inflation Reduction Act Tackling Climate Change

In a small part of North Carolina, in the face of immense urban sprawl lies a farm owned and operated by a champion of conservation, Franklin W. Howey Jr. He has been farming since he was a small child and has loved every minute of it. 

Mr. Howey operates approximately 21,000 acres with most of it being farmed himself along with his family. In his operation he practices minimal tillage depending on the soil type, through the implementation of a variety of cover crops. Mr. Howey understands how conservation and farming are related, and his efforts has led to many agricultural awards, which includes the 2019 Farm Family of the Year Award for Union County, 2018 Top Producer of the Year, and 2014 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.

When not winning awards, row cropping, or preserving farmland, the family also is involved in cattle and forestry. With such a diverse operation, Mr. Howey understands the need to capitalize on additional resources to conserve the natural resources on his property. Each type of operation required its own unique conservation plan. Working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), he was able to establish plans to address those natural resource concerns.

Recently, Mr. Howey applied for and was approved to implement forestry practices on 302 acres of his property. The funds were made available thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Because of these funds, he’ll be able to address plant productivity, health, structure, and composition of his forest land. As these trees grow and flourish, they’ll sequester carbon dioxide that negative impacts the climate by removing it from the air, one of the main goals of the IRA.

“We are committed to farming with the future in mind. To preserve the legacy of the next generation of farmers, we take the responsibility as caretakers of the land seriously. For example, we prioritize no till farming with cover crops to sequester carbon, minimizing our impact on the environment. This strategy is not only environmentally friendly, but it helps improve soil health and yield potential for both the short- and long-term,” said Frank Howey Jr., owner, operator of Frank Howey Family Farms and Howey Ranch.

The IRA provides an additional $19.5 billion over five years to support USDA’s conservation programs that yield climate change mitigation benefits. As a result of IRA, conservation funds were made available in 2023 to private landowners to address identified resource concerns and the implementation of conservation practices that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon. The conservation funding is in addition to otherwise available program funds, and participation is voluntary, incentive-based, and targeted to support climate-smart mitigation activities and other conservation activities that facilitate them.

Mr. Howey is no stranger in working with the USDA-NRCS. In 2010, Mr. Howey installed a grassed waterway on his property to help prevent erosion and improve runoff water quality resulting from concentrated surface flow. A grassed waterway is a shaped or graded channel that is established with suitable vegetation to convey surface water in a nonintrusive manner using a broad and shallow cross section to a stable outlet. 

“Landowners like Mr. Howey are instrumental in addressing natural resource concerns on their land, they’re at the forefront of carbon capture and addressing climate change,” said Julius George, Acting State Conservationist.

Frank Howey is a true champion of conservation. He has consistently demonstrated his commitment to conservation and using his vast farmland responsibly. His contributions to farming and conservation will benefit generations to come.

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