When soldiers who’ve fought for their country return to the Land of Opportunity, too often they find uncertainty. New legislation introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts will give them a better chance to continue serving their country on the farm.
Make no mistake. These returning veterans want and need ways to continue serving their country. One of the best ways they can do that is to farm, driving their heart for service down a country road that leads to peace and contentment, even if they don’t become wealthy doing it.
In an age where the American Dream seems undefined or blurry, these veterans bring it all back into focus.
Agriculture provides new opportunities and a sense of purpose that can be sorely missed after years of purposeful military service.
There are many parallels between military and agriculture service. Among them are seeing a task in front of you and knowing that your work is not over until the job is done; and knowing that you have to complete the task regardless of how you feel.
Too often, we as a nation forget about the sacrifices it takes to enter a war zone. Some people also forget about the long, sometimes frustrating days getting a crop in the ground and caring for livestock.
Like too many people impacted by war, livestock need nourishment for the body, and farmers need it for the soul. Neither are always easy to find.
The difference is that back home, striving to serve your country by feeding people and livestock brings a sense of peace people can’t find in war. Memories watching our children feed calves before school cannot be erased any more than the horrors of war. We prefer the peaceful memories, and believe veterans have earned it.
That’s among the reasons Michigan Farm Bureau and many other organizations support The Farmer Veteran Opportunity Act of 2018, which makes all new veterans eligible for support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.
The bill, if passed by Congress, would expand support to all new veterans who may have existing careers in agriculture. Currently, the USDA’s veteran’s 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,” said Sen. Stabenow when she introduced the legislation. Actually, the bills build on what’s in the current farm bill.
“For the first time, the (current) farm bill created a Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison position to advocate for farmer veterans at the USDA,” Stabenow said. “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 Stabenow/Roberts bill will help farmer veterans receive better assistance from existing farm programs, including 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.
When veterans have the opportunity to stand alongside other farmers and ranchers to provide the food we eat, the products we use, and the fuel that drives us down the road, it provides a positive outlet for service members who are struggling to find their place again within their family and community.
To work in agriculture, we have to be in the moment. We have to focus on the here and now, and that can help begin the process for reintegration and healing.
The leadership of Michigan and our nation understand the importance of agriculture. It is an important issue for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
That’s the beauty of this legislation. It’s not about political agendas or ideology. It’s about doing the right thing for our veterans and our farmers. It’s about giving back to the veterans who already gave so much.
There are no handouts here. All the bill does is give veterans a fighting chance to farm.
Please support this legislation. It’s the right thing to do.