Executive Director’s Comments 2023


Food Insecurity Among the Military Community and the Farm Bill

As many of you know, the Farm Bill is a multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. It provides an opportunity for policymakers to comprehensively address agricultural and food issues.

The farm bill is renewed every five years, and many of us in the industry have worked on different components of the 12 titles that make up this legislation throughout the year. Provisions in the farm bill modify some of the farm commodity programs, expanded crop insurance, amended conservation programs, reauthorized and revised nutrition assistance, and extended authority to appropriate funds for many U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs.

This year FVC has been planning a pilot project that will assist with food security among Veterans and active-duty military families. The Farm Bill authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that serve millions of Americans each year.

The Farm Bill represents an opportunity to advance long-overdue policy solutions to help populations that face unique food security challenges —this includes active-duty military families and Veterans.

Many of FVC’s 45,000 members actively work with local, state and federal agencies that work in the food insecurity space. As you discuss the fine points of the Farm Bill, please consider researching the following concepts that would assist in solving this complex issue in our military communities:

  • Promote food security among active-duty military families. Eliminate the existing barrier to SNAP for low-income military families by excluding the basic allowance for housing as counted income. Too many junior enlisted servicemembers are being eliminated from this crucial program for their families.
  • Address food insecurity among Veterans.
      • Request to lower the VA disability rating required for veterans for SNAP purposes. Currently it is 100% and we are seeing language that is suggesting 60%.
      • Formalize the establishment of the Office of Veterans Food Security at the VA.

Additionally, the Farm Bill provides support for farms and ranches operated by beginning, small and limited resources, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers. This subgroup represents a diverse, growing and sizeable share of all U.S. agricultural producers- and represents many of FVC’s Veterans.

The most recent 2017 census of AG reports there were 516,000 farms where the principal producer is a new and beginning producer, representing about 25% of all U.S. farm operations. Agricultural products sold by beginning producers total $60.4 billion or about 15% of total U.S. farm level sales in 2017. Land and farm operated by beginning producers account for about 16% of all land and farming.

Veteran farmer or ranchers are defined as a farmer or rancher who has served in the Armed Forces and who (A) has not operated a farm or ranch (B) has operated a farm or ranch for not more that 10 years; or (C) is a Veteran who has first obtained status as a Veteran during the most recent 10-year period.

USDA reports more than 370,000 producers who either served or are serving in the military account for 11% of all U.S. producers in 2017.

I cannot wait to see what the 2023 survey will reveal next year! One thing many of us realize is that these numbers can be even higher than 11% when Veterans have access beyond the 10-year sunset clause!

When Veterans are discharged from service, they may try several careers before they pursue agriculture. As we all know, the barriers to entry into the ag sector are daunting, and the assistance that our beginning farmer and ranchers’ programs with USDA provides needs to be extended to them.

As you can see from the above statistics, these are the farmers that are replacing our producers who are aging out. We all need to strive to correct this policy so that all new Veteran farmers can be successful in helping to feed the people of our great country.

Only 53 days to Conference! I cannot wait to see everyone.

Enjoy fall everyone!