Executive Director’s Comments: February 2024

ceres on grass
This statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, stands outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

This February I was privileged to represent the producers of the Farmer Veteran Coalition at several meetings in our nation’s capital. The first meeting was the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) winter policy meeting, and the other was the USDA’s 100th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Often when FVC visits the capital, we are asked to provide feedback on either Veteran Affairs or USDA programs that assist beginning farmers and ranchers. I wanted to use my space in our newsletter to highlight a few items that I believe may be of interest to our membership.


This forum was the perfect opportunity for me to meet with the Secretaries/Commissioners of Agriculture from the 48 states that attended.

Many of these states have a co-branded label with FVC for our Homegrown By Heroes label, and they were interested to learn of our plans to expand the sales of the label through MarketMaker, our online fulfillment center, and into some regional food chains this year.

Additionally, I was able to learn about upcoming cooperative agreements that we can participate in with our state chapters, as well as if there were any discretionary funds available for our Fellowship Fund.

On the policy side, the group discussed many position statements, but there was one that would specifically assist our beginning farmers and ranchers that I wanted to share. New and beginning farmers often face the challenges of overcoming a knowledge and experience gap.

FVC supports tax incentive programs for farmers willing to provide mentorship services to new and beginning farmers. Through a structured tax incentive, farmers who are retiring and/or transitioning would be provided assistance to mentor the next generation of agricultural producers.

Ag Outlook Forum

The forum shared the following information gleaned from the 2022 Census of Agriculture:

  • Percentage of all producers in the United States who are producers with military service is 9.1%.
  • Total number of farmers: 3,374,044.
      • Number of farmers with military service: 305,753.
  • Average age for all farmers is 58.1.
      • Average age for farmers with military service is 68.2.
  • Total number of farms: 1,900,487.
      • Number of farms with military service: 289,372.
  • Average farm size for all farmers: 463 acres.
      • Average farm size for farmers with military service: 373 acres.
  • Average total value of production for all farmers: $285,762.
      • Average total value of production for farmers with military service: $169,548.

Here are a few key points from Secretary Tom Vilsack’s keynote speech at the Ag Outlook Forum:

  • The United States has had three global ag commodity price spikes in 15 years.
  • Currently, farmers are globally rebuilding stocks for corn and soybeans, and are predicting tighter stocks for wheat and rice.
  • Output prices are generally falling faster than input prices — leading to tighter margins, and reducing sector profitability.
  • The United States is facing strong competition for crop exports.
  • The United States livestock sector production and prices are heavily impacted by weather and disease shocks.
  • Food inflation is expected to continue to moderate, but with levels remaining above the trend.
  • Geopolitical uncertainties and transportation disruptions hang over the market.
  • Weather always has the last say!

Despite those challenges that affect the agricultural sector, it is an amazing time to be working in this industry. Innovation, productivity, and the sheer drive of the American farmer will see us all through whatever lays ahead.

Thank you for all you do to feed your families, communities, and people of our great country every day … three times a day … day after day.

Best Regards,

Jeanette Lombardo