Ben Thomas

Senior Policy Director, Agriculture

Work

Areas of expertise:
Agricultural and food law, policy implementation, political strategy, coalition building

Ben Thomas is the senior policy director for agriculture at Environmental Defense Fund. He focuses on creating innovative and pragmatic solutions to address environmental risks from agriculture by working with key farm groups and policymakers across state and federal government.

He has extensive experience working in both state and federal government to develop and implement policy related to food and agriculture. He understands the importance of strategic engagement with stakeholders, including farm groups, to create programs that are effective and workable on the ground.

Background

Most recently, Ben served as the director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. In that role, he oversaw economic and regulatory programs serving Montana’s number one industry. In 2020, he led the rapid creation and deployment of two new programs created to address faults in the agriculture markets created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He previously served in several roles in federal government. As deputy undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, he oversaw the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agriculture Marketing Service and Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. As chief of staff for the Farm and Foreign Services mission area, his primary focus was implementation of changes to the farm programs, conservation programs and crop insurance provisions of the 2014 farm bill. In both of these roles he served as a top adviser to USDA Secretary Vilsack on international trade and farm policy.

Prior to joining USDA, he served two members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sens. Max Baucus and John Walsh, both of Montana. During his time with Sen. Baucus, Ben was a key player in the development of new farm programs and changes to the conservation and crop insurance title of the farm bill.

Ben was raised on a diversified family farm near Morton in the Texas Panhandle. His entire career in policy has been firmly rooted in ensuring state and federal policy support farm families and rural economies across the United States.

Education

  • LL.M, Agricultural and Food Law, University of Arkansas
  • J.D., Washington University, St. Louis
  • B.A., Austin College