Benefits and Resources for Returning Veterans Wanting to Farm

Numerous organizations cooperate to help returning veterans and other underserved populations transition to farming or ranching.

By Linda Geist | Photos By Charlie Niebergall

The skills and work ethic our veterans bring from military service are valuable assets when it comes to providing the food, fiber and fuel we need to keep America going strong,” writes U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Resources for Farming Veterans

USDA. Only 6% of the nation’s farmers are younger than 35, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012 Census of Agriculture. At 33, Cody Waters knows the financial and time constraints that create barriers for beginning farmers. USDA’s census says it takes more than $1 million for the average value of farmland and buildings.

Cody Waters and son Cole

Cody Waters and son Cole

In 2009, Waters and his wife worked with representatives of the USDA and Veterans Administration to buy 60 acres of Missouri farmland. Since 2009, USDA has provided $443 million in farm loans to help more than 6,505 veterans purchase farmland, buy equipment and make upgrades and repairs to farm business.

The 2014 Farm Bill created a position within USDA for a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. For more information, go to http://www.nal.usda.gov/veterans-agriculture.

A microloan program provides support to veterans to grow their farming businesses. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/01/0010.xml

AgrAbility. Waters is interested in advocating for veteran farmers. He has attended informational sessions such as those put on by Missouri AgrAbility Project (MAP). The project serves farmers and ranchers with disabilities. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency of USDA, administers the AgrAbility Project.

Karen Funkenbusch, director of MAP, says returning veterans may have brain injuries or suffer from invisible wounds such as hearing loss, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. They also may experience physical disabilities caused by wearing heavy protective armor, or stress on knees and backs from getting on and off equipment.

For more information, go to http://agrability.org/.

Farm Bureau. Waters also plans to attend an upcoming finance “boot camp” offered by Missouri Farm Bureau. American Farm Bureau’s Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership notes that returning veterans may be the most likely young people to enter agriculture and rural-based businesses. For more information, go to http://www.fb.org/.

Returning Veterans to Agriculture Project. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly called the Farm Bill, creates economic opportunities for veterans in agriculture.

These new initiatives set aside funds for veterans and dedicate funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist veterans who want to own and operate farms or work in agriculture. Go to http://rv2a.org/2014-farm-bill/ for more information.

Center for Rural Affairs. The Center for Rural Affairs (http://www.cfra.org/veteran_farmers_project) offers resources for new, Latino, veteran and women farmers. Returning veterans receive individual consultations for financial and production advice, and a HelpLine for phone and email inquiries. USDA’s Risk Management Agency provides funding for the Center for Rural Affairs, Farmer-Veteran Coalition, AgrAbility and partner groups.

A Canadian organizationelps veterans move from military to civilian life. The group-based course is held three weekends over two months. Participants learn to identify and remove barriers that prevent successful transition. Go to http://vtncanada.org for more information.

Other resources include: