VETERAN FARMER PROGRAM
Veterans face significant challenges – transitioning back to civilian life, unemployment, depression and more – when returning home from active duty. We believe that we can help provide support and opportunities for our veterans when they come home.
In partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Oregon Tilth is pleased to participate in a growing effort to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders while supporting military veterans transitioning to a career in organic agriculture.
Fee Waiver for Veteran Owner/Operator of Organic Farms
Oregon Tilth will exempt any farm from paying base certification fees* that is owned or operated by a military veteran. This waiver of the certification fee is granted to new applicants as well as renewing farmers that can demonstrate that he and/or she is a qualified military veteran.
Applicable inspection costs and administrative fees will still apply. Evidence of ownership by the military veteran is necessary in order to be granted the fee waiver. For more information, please contact Oregon Tilth at (503) 378-0690.
* For more information on fees, please visit our Certification Fees section.
Additional Support and Training with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC)
In September 2015, FVC launched its Veteran Organic Training Program to help provide technical and financial support for members’ costs to organically certify their farms, from the new application fee through certification.
Organic certification verifies that a farm complies with USDA organic regulations and allows producers to sell, label, and represent their products as organic. The USDA organic regulations recognize four categories of organic products: crops, livestock, processed products, and wild crops.
In addition to Oregon Tilth’s base certification fee waiver, FVC will provide additional funds to members to help cover the remaining costs of organic certification such as inspection costs and/or related expenses for the inspection process. Funds will be administered on a first come, first served basis.
Oregon Tilth will waive base certification fees immediately, while application for additional FVC funds will require members to cover additional certification costs initially and then submit documentation for reimbursement to FVC.
“The organic certification process can be lengthy,” said Aaron Magill, manager of the Veteran Organic Training Program. “Often auditors need to see plants in the ground, farming practices in action, livestock birthing, et cetera, before an organic certification can be given. Everything from record keeping to farming practices will be scrutinized, but FVC will advise and assist every step of the way.”
For members interested in the Veteran Organic Training Program, please contact the FVC by emailing support [at] farmvetco.org, or by calling (530) 756-1395.
Additional Financial and Technical Resources for Organic Veteran Farmers:
Cost Share Reimbursement Program (for organic certification fees)
The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) helps farmers and processors afford the expense of organic certification by refunding up to 75 percent of their certification costs per scope of operation, with a maximum of $750 per scope. Learn more from Oregon Tilth’s regularly updated Cost Share information page.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) / Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)
The USDA is required to set aside a portion of funding for EQIP and a portion of the acres available for CSP for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The amount is 5% for beginning farmers and ranchers and 5% for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The new Farm Bill requires a preference be given to veteran farmers and ranchers that fall within at least one of the set-aside categories. Veteran Farmers now receive additional points when applying for such programs. These points are in addition to any points granted for being a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher.
Value-Added Producer Grants
This program is one of the few instances in which farmers may directly receive grants for their private business. The purpose is to assist farm businesses and producer groups in developing business plans and strategies to market value-added products. In awarding grants to producers under this program, the USDA must now give a priority to veteran farmers and ranchers, along with small and medium-sized family farms, beginning farmers, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. It’s important to note that you do not receive additional points for multiple categories. For instance, you do not receive double the points for being a beginning farmer or rancher and a veteran farmer or rancher.
Microloans and USDA Farm Service Agency
The 2014 Farm Bill specifically excludes Micro-loans that are used by veterans from the term limits applied to other USDA Direct Operating Loans. The legislation also limits the interest rate that may be charged to farmer veterans using Micro-Loans. Veteran Farmers may choose the Microloan Interest rate, which is set at 5%, or the regular interest rate for USDA Operating Loans. Currently, regular interest rates are below 5%, making them the better choice. As interest rates rise, the 5% Microloan rate may become more appealing. Essentially, Veteran Farmers will not pay more than 5% on Microloans.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant (BFRDP)
The BFRDP, administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), provides grants to organizations providing training, education, outreach, and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers. Under the 2014 Farm Bill assistance for veteran farmers is made a priority under the BFRDP by specifically including “agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training” as an eligible service and providing a 5% set aside of BFRDP funding for programs serving veterans.
Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
The program has been expanded to include veterans. This allows the USDA to provide additional technical assistance to veterans focused on enabling farm ownership and operation as well as outreach to encourage participation in USDA programs.
Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison
The Farm Bill legislation also increases advocacy and coordination for veteran farmers and ranchers by creating the position of Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. This position will help connect returning veterans with agricultural programs as well as assist in the use of veterans education benefits for a farm or ranching career. The Liaison will also advocate on behalf of veterans in interactions with USDA employees. This position appears to essentially facilitate critical two-way communication, providing information to veterans on fully utilizing government programs and ensuring USDA personnel understand veteran characteristics and implementation of new veteran programs.