May 7, 2017

Guild Farmer-Veteran Bill Sails Through Assembly

tractorOur California Guild measure, Assembly Bill 376 regarding Veteran Farmer Incentives has, in recent weeks, passed by unanimous vote through three policy and fiscal committees (Labor and Employment, Veterans Affairs and Appropriations).

Last Thursday,  the legislation received a unanimous vote by the full membership on the Assembly Floor.  The measure will now be sent to the Senate for further hearing.

Assembly Bill 376 addresses the looming crisis in the nation’s supply of farm operators as the United States Department of Agriculture estimates the average age of existing farm operators is 58 years and one third are over 65 (as of 2012).  To address this problem, the USDA is calling for at least 100,000 new farmers and ranchers in the coming years.   

The 2014 United States Farm Bill recognized our military veterans as a promising population to enter careers as farm operators and ranchers, and numerous federal resources (including farm loans, microloans, training, education, business management, natural resource conservation practices, etc.) have been made available in the United States Farm bill to assist.  AB 376 will forge a State/federal collaboration to leverage maximum federal resources to the State to assist California’s military veterans interested in entering careers as farm operators and ranchers.

The bill’s author, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), himself a retired Marine Colonel , notes: “Supporting our veterans ability to draw down federal money and transition into a field of such demand will create security and stability for our state’s agriculture industry and for our veterans shifting to civilian life.”

Specifically, AB 376 authorizes the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, in partnership with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (Cal Vet) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to identify and disseminate state and federal programs for purposes of collaboration and veteran outreach.  Some examples include:  1) CDFA’s Healthy Soils Initiative and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; 2) The Cal Vet Home and Farm Loans and USDA’s direct farm loans and microloans; and 3) The America’s Job Center of California[i] , offering no-cost employment and training services to job seekers and employers, and the compatible employment and training resources offered through the Federal Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.

California Guild President Bob McFarland notes:  “An important mission of the California Guild is to build sustainable communities and support small farming.  Creating new opportunities for our returning military veterans to work on the land and in our communities is an exciting opportunity for California.”

The Davis Farmer Veterans Coalition, whose central purpose is assisting veterans to enter farming and ranching careers, notes its support of the measure stating:  “The Farmer Veterans Coalition wishes to enthusiastically express its support for AB 376.  This bill will greatly expand awareness of existing state programs and avenues to leverage compatible federal resources offered through the 2014 United States Farm bill.”

California Guild Legislative Advocate, Diana Rude stated “We are pleased to be working with the author, and with interested State and Federal agencies on this shared mission.”