Photo at just above ground level showing cover crops on a Texas farm.
The Cobb's Farm Cover crops like the ones growing on this Texas farm help ensure healthy soil that captures and stores carbon. © Ron Nichols/USDA-NRCS

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Kris Johnson Named Director of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture Program

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced today the appointment of Kris Johnson, Ph.D., as Director of Agriculture in North America. Johnson, who has served as interim director for the past eight months, will lead an interdisciplinary team of science, policy and agriculture experts in a collaborative approach to help farmers and ranchers meet the growing demand for food production while protecting critical lands and waters for people and nature. The North America Agriculture program works to promote conservation and regenerative practices on farmland and grazing lands to provide clean and abundant water supplies, vital habitat and natural solutions to mitigate climate change.

“Kris is well known for his strategic acumen and his ability to build strong relationships internally and externally,” said Michael Reuter, Midwest Director of The Nature Conservancy in North America.  “He has provided exceptional leadership in developing a systems-based approach to expand regenerative row crop and grazing lands work in North America. Our efforts include supporting meaningful corporate sustainability action in the ag sector, helping launch potentially catalytic ecosystem services markets, and identifying disruptive innovations in finance and technology.”

Prior to this recent appointment, Johnson served as deputy director of agriculture for North America, a program which is comprised of a dozen staff members and a virtual regional team of more than 100 individuals across the United States. Johnson and his team also work closely with TNC’s Global Regenerative Food Systems team.  

This is a crucial moment in time when agriculture has the potential to be a solution to protect water, tackle climate change and support biodiversity.

Kris Johnson Director of TNC's North America Agriculture Program

“I am honored and excited to have been chosen to lead The Nature Conservancy’s North America Agriculture program," said Johnson. "This is a crucial moment in time when agriculture has the potential to be a solution to protect water, tackle climate change and support biodiversity. Our team at The Nature Conservancy is inspired to work for a transition towards regenerative agricultural systems, and we are committed to helping farmers and ranchers sustain their livelihoods and build the resilience of our food production, while protecting our lands and waters.”

Johnson joined TNC in 2012, where in multiple roles he has made substantial contributions to the evolution of the organization’s work in agriculture and freshwater systems. He provided foundational leadership to our developing freshwater work in the United States during the past decade, especially with regard to risk reduction and resilience, and floodplain management.

Prior to his work at TNC, Johnson was the sustainability scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and completed a M.S. and Ph.D. in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, where his dissertation addressed ecosystem services and sustainability in agriculture. Johnson was a Fulbright Scholar and a MacArthur Scholar, and he remains a Senior Fellow in Sustainable Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.

Based at the organization’s Minnesota Field Office, Johnson lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children.

Learn more about TNC’s North America Agriculture program.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.