When veterans return home to a crumbling economy, where can they turn? How about to NFFC member the Farmer Veteran Coalition?
Dulanie Ellis and Raymond Singer have created the film “Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields” to highlight the amazing work that Veteran farmers are doing across the country.
In a briefing on the Hill today, hosted by Representative Moran (D-VA) and moderated by Elizabeth Kucinich of Center for Food Safety, Ellis remarked that she and Singer set out to tell a story about Veterans and ended up telling one about sustainable agriculture too. The Veterans they interviewed by and large chose to venture into smaller-scale organic agriculture. Large-scale, chemical ridden, fossil fuel oriented agriculture reminded them of war, rather than the peace they sought. “Ground Operations” details the personal narratives of these veterans and the effect farming has in easing their PTSD and other war-caused health issues.
Representative Moran spoke at the briefing and highlighted how successful and needed this link between Veterans and farmers is. His commendation focused the question and answer session on the need for federal funding and support for programs like these. In response to the question “Are there federal programs for veterans interested in farming?,” NFFC’s Kathy Ozer was able to speak to the audience about the current status of Section 2501; a program that provides a federal match for outreach programs to assist minority, low income – and now veteran farmers for the first time. Ozer briefly outlined the history of Section 2501 and how its funding level at $20 million per year in the last farm bill has been cut to $10 milion per year in the farm bill currently under negotiation. Efforts are underway with a letter to President Obama signed by 80 organizations to retain funding at $20 million per year. This funding would open up outreach opportunities to Veterans to ensure access to all types of USDA farm and credit programs. In response to a question, one of the panelists said that FVC has helped at least 2000 farmers across the country through their training programs since they were founded just five years ago.
The audience, filled with Legislative Assistants for many members of Congress, generally were receptive to the issues foregrounded in “Ground Operations.” With any luck, they will take the messages back to their representatives who will then work to more aggressively assist Veteran farmers.