New legislation was recently introduced that expands support for Michigan veterans in agriculture.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, joined committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to introduce the Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act of 2018, which makes all new veterans eligible for support from USDA.
The bill also improves access for Michigan farmer-veterans across eight existing initiatives to make risk management tools more affordable, expand access to land and capital, and prioritize training for veterans.
“Agriculture offers Michigan veterans rewarding careers and the opportunity to continue serving our nation by feeding our families,” Stabenow says. “After putting their lives on the line, our veterans should be first in line for support that can help them find jobs in farming and grow their agricultural businesses.”
Roberts adds, “When our veterans retire from active service, whether here or abroad, they need certainty and opportunity. I’m proud to co-sponsor a bill that allows men and women who have served our country to return to the farm.”
The legislation expands support to all new veterans who may have existing careers in agriculture. Currently, the USDA’s veterans initiatives are designed to support those who are starting a career in agriculture for the first time. This common-sense change ensures that all new farmer veterans will be able to benefit from support, whether they are just starting a career on the farm or looking to expand their operation.
Additionally, the bill would help farmer-veterans receive better assistance from existing farm programs, including more affordable risk management tools like crop insurance to help them recover from unexpected losses.
Because many farmer-veterans also face barriers to accessing land and capital to start or expand their farms, the legislation would make farmer-veterans eligible for down payment loans when purchasing real estate and would provide priority access for reduced interest rates on loans to buy farmland or finance production equipment.
Veterans would also receive priority access for additional training and education opportunities to help them navigate their crop insurance options and meet food safety standards.
The Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act of 2018 builds on a number of provisions in the current farm bill championed by Stabenow to strengthen support for farmer-veterans. For the first time, the farm bill created a Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison position to advocate for farmer-veterans at the USDA.
To help farmer-veterans overcome the barriers many new farmers face, the farm bill prioritized veteran access to training resources and financing through short-term, low-interest loans. The bill also made it easier to participate in voluntary conservation initiatives.
The bipartisan bill is supported by the both the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan, in addition to Michigan Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Nick Babcock, president of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan, says, “Agriculture allows our veterans to continue serving our country by growing the food on our plates and the fuel in our vehicles. Sen. Stabenow is a true champion for Michigan’s farmer-veterans, and I appreciate her work to connect veterans like me with opportunities on the farm.”
Source: Office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow