Executive Director’s Comments: June 2024

Executive Director’s Comments: June 2024

Over this past year FVC has been one of eight collaborators with the USDA on the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program. Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides financial assistance for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination by the USDA in USDA’s farm lending prior to 2021.

The application period closed on January 17 and the submitted applications are under review.

As FVC staff assisted our Veterans with their applications, two things became noticeably clear to me as a previous agribusiness banker. The first was that our Veterans need to improve their skills with recordkeeping! Many USDA assistance programs require documentation and even as we worked on the disaster relief programs last year we saw many instances where it was severely lacking.

The second thing that became apparent was that FVC needs to assist more with preparing Veterans to apply for farm loans. This means not only helping with business plans and analyzing financial statements, but providing ag finance credit counseling.

Agricultural lending is a higher risk than standard consumer lending, so the expectations and the process need to be clear on such things as: occupancy requirements, credit scores, debt-to-income ratio, program fees, property zoning/restrictions, length of appraisal and underwriting process, and the approval process through loan committee and board approvals, etc.

FVC has noted several ways where the loan application process in general could be modified to assist beginning farmers and ranchers, and we have shared those insights. Additionally, FVC began to look internally at our call center where we provide technical assistance for capital access to determine how we could assist.

One of the basic solutions would be to enhance our assistance to our Veterans in getting the three years of experience needed to secure an FSA (Farm Service Agency) loan. Mentorship, internships, and apprenticeship programs are all learning experiences that can involve working alongside an experienced person to gain experience and skills sets that will increase the probability of success.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “What is the difference between the three learning experiences?” So, briefly, here are some basic descriptions.

  • Mentorship
    A relationship between a more experienced person and a less experienced individual where the mentor provides guidance, advice, and support to help the mentee develop their skills and grow professionally in farm management practices. Mentorship can help you build professional relationships and learn best practices that can help you succeed in your career. 
  • Internship
    A temporary work experience that is usually part time and lasts a semester or two. Internships are intended to be educational opportunities, not employment opportunities, and interns are not considered employees of the organization. Internships can give you a chance to try out a job in different environments and learn about a particular organization, industry, or job. Internships do not always include mentorship and may not lead to a full-time job.
  • Apprenticeship
    A paid, full-time position where an apprentice works with an experienced mentor to learn a job through a combination of theoretical learning and practical experience. Apprenticeships can lead to an industry-recognized credential. Apprentices are considered employees of the organization and are paid an entry-level salary that increases over the course of the program as they gain experience. 

Military service counts as the first year of experience; a certified training program (like AgVets) would count as a second year; and any of the three learning experiences listed above would count as the third.

FVC is adding, on average, 100 members a week. The processes that we have used in the past to match our Veterans with these learning opportunities are in the process of being enhanced — and that is where WE NEED YOUR HELP.

If you are aware of a mentorship/internship/apprenticeship program in your state, please contact us at and let us know. We would love to enter their information into our customer relationship management software as a referral partner, so when we need to match Veterans up with learning opportunities in their state we can provide multiple options to them.

I hope planting is well underway for everyone and that you are enjoying family, friends, and the festivities of summer.