NSAC's Blog

New USDA Assistance for Farmer Veterans

November 18, 2014

More and more military veterans are trading in their combat boots for cowboy boots and transitioning into a career in agriculture.  Many of the men and women who have served our country come from rural or agricultural backgrounds, and are either interested in returning to the family farm or pursuing farming as a therapeutic career that utilizes the unique skills they have acquired through military service.

That’s why NSAC is especially excited about a recent announcement made by USDA to establish a new Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison to coordinate leadership across the Department to provide information, resources and support for active duty military and veterans interested in agriculture.  The liaison position was part of a marker bill pushed by NSAC during the recent farm bill debate.

Karis Gutter, who currently serves as the Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service, was named as USDA’s first Military Agricultural Liaison, and he will have the authority to facilitate formal relationships between USDA and other government agencies (such as the Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs) and non-profit organizations to strengthen USDA support for veterans.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden made the announcement at the Farmer Veteran Coalition and Drake University Agriculture Law Center’s inaugural national conference held in Des Moines, Iowa last week.

Many of America’s veterans come from our rural communities, and are often drawn back to the land upon returning to civilian life.  Veterans are key to building our future generation of farmers, land stewards and conservationists.  USDA already has a number of initiatives to help veterans find meaningful work in agriculture upon returning home, but this new position will help coordinate our efforts and make programs easier to navigate. — USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.

The Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison was newly created in the 2014 Farm Bill, and was a provision that NSAC and our members across the country fought hard to win support for as Congress debated what policies and programs would be included in the final farm bill.

This proposal was originally included in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, which was a comprehensive legislative package of new policies and programs that aimed to expand opportunities for the next generation of farmers – including veteran farmers.  Dozens of Members in both the House and the Senate joined on as co-sponsors of the bill and pledged their support for the future of farming in this country.

The 2014 Farm Bill includes a substantial portion of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act provisions, including several new provisions that give veterans priority in many USDA programs, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, the Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program, and the Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers.  To read more about Farm Bill programs for veterans, check out our blog.

Several NSAC member organizations operate programs that specifically aim to help get more veterans into farming, and helped advocate for the establishment of this new position within USDA.  Some of these organizations include:

  • Farmer Veteran Coalition, based in Davis, California, hosts a network of veteran farmers and connects them with resources to help them get started farming
  • Center for Rural Affairs, based in Lyons, Nebraska, runs a Veteran Farmers Project that provides training and assistance in-person and via a national hotline
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology received USDA funding through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to establish Armed to Farm — a new farmer training program specifically targeting veteran farmers.

NSAC looks forward to working with the new Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison to help coordinate activities across USDA in support of veterans, and to help connect returning veterans with USDA resources, including credit, conservation, rural development, and beginning farmer training programs.

To read USDA’s press release on this new position, click here.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers

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