May 10, 2018Bipartisan bill introduced to support farmer veterans
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry has joined committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to introduce new legislation that expands support for Michigan veterans in agriculture. The Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act of 2018 makes all new veterans eligible for support from the 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,” said Senator Stabenow. “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.”
“When our veterans retire from active service, whether here or abroad, they need certainty and opportunity,” said Senator Roberts. “I’m proud to cosponsor 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 Senator 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. In order 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, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan: “Agriculture allows our veterans to continue serving our country by growing the food on our plates and the fuel in our vehicles. Senator 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.”
John Kran, National Legislative Counsel, Michigan Farm Bureau: “Michigan Farm Bureau applauds Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for introducing legislation to help our farmer veteran community. Whether returning to the farm or starting out on their own, it’s important farmer veterans can access the tools they need. From crop insurance and low interest loans, to food safety training and risk management education, these programs are all extremely helpful in building and maintaining successful businesses.”
Patrick Murray, Associate Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars: “The VFW is proud to support this important piece of legislation that would provide relief, assistance and empowerment for our Veteran Farmers across the country. We applaud Senators Stabenow and Roberts for their continuing efforts to aid veterans and their pursuit of meaningful careers in agriculture.”
Tom Porter, Legislative Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America strongly commends Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts for introducing the Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act, to increase opportunities for veterans to succeed in agriculture careers. America’s military veterans are entrepreneurial and motivated to succeed, and this legislation takes concrete steps to further empower them.”