Empowering Veterans to Thrive in Agriculture

As most veterans are aware there are a variety of benefits that go along with the status of veteran. These benefit programs are administered by a diverse array of state and federal agencies, and probably few veterans are aware of all the programs.

There are also many programs to assist beginning farmers and ranchers. Many of these programs can be used by veterans, perhaps in conjunction with veteran benefits programs.

The intent of this page is to connect veterans and those serving them with the veterans benefits and farming programs as well as provide an explanation for how they can both be used to advance agricultural training and careers.

What Veterans In Agriculture Offers

Ultimately, your success will depend on your own hard work, perseverance and your ability to change and adapt. VIA offers the support network, educational opportunities, and advocacy to help enable you to achieve the goals you set for your own farm.[/jbox][jcol/]

VIA Network
Farming veterans learn best from each other. Join us to meet with, learn from and share experiences with other farmers dealing with the same programs and issues and striving toward similar goals.

Network

Continuing Education
Subscribe to learn about upcoming events. You’ll receive updates based on your operation and interests. VIA hosts occasional workshops on topics of concern expressed by our members.

Subscribe

Advocacy
Veterans and Farm programs and agencies can seem like a labyrinth. We have experience using VA, USDA, and other agency programs to help farm businesses. Contact us if you feel lost or hit roadblocks.

Contact Us

Useful Farm & Veterans Programs for Your Farm Business

Access to Capital

There are state and federal programs to help farmers access capital for land and operating expenses.  Most are available through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and agricultural lenders such as those in the Farm Credit System. There are also programs that may be utilized for farm business development through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

Iowa Beginning Farmer Loan Program (BFLP)

The Beginning Farmer Loan Program (BFLP) is administered by the Iowa Agricultural Development Division (IADD) of the Iowa Finance Authority.

Beginning Farmer Loans are financed by private lenders or landowners selling on contract. The IADD issues federal tax exempt bonds and interest from the loans or contract sales are also exempt from state taxes. This allows the lender or seller to offer a lower interest rate to the farmer.

IADD does not set the interest rate, and the terms of the loan, including interest rate, length, prepayment options, service fees, and repayment schedule must be negotiated between the borrower and lender or seller.

The maximum loan amount is $501,100 as of January 1, 2014.

The BFLP’s tax exemption on interest from the loan provides a strong incentive for lenders and seller’s to provide credit to the participating borrower. It also provides leverage for the borrower to receive a lower interest rate. The rate for BFLP loans are typically one to four percentage points below the prevailing market rate.

Using the loan provides an opportunity to establish credit and a relationship with local lenders.

This program is available to Iowa Beginning Farmers. To be a Beginning Farmer for the purposes of this loan the application must:

  • Be an Iowa resident,
  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application,
  • Materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm and assume financial risk,
  • Own no more land than 30% of the county median,
  • Have a net worth of less than $691,172, and
  • Have sufficient education and training and access to machinery to operate a production operation.

  1. Obtain a copy of the Beginning Farmer Loan Program Application.
  2. Complete application with lender or seller.
  3. Negotiate loan terms, including interest rate, length of loan, prepayment options, service fees and repayment schedule with lender or seller.
  4. Submit application, financial statement, background letter, other required materials and non-refundable application fee to IADD by the 1st of the month.
  5. A public hearing will be conducted during the board meeting on beginning farmer loan projects, at which time, the IADD Board may approve the bond resolution.
  6. After adoption of the final bond resolution, all parties may close the loans.

Application deadlines for all Agricultural Development Division programs are the first of the month.

There are currently no particular benefits based on veteran status.

The Beginning Farm Loan Program webpage is available through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA).

You can contact the Iowa Agricultural Development Division of IFA here:

Steve Ferguson
Program Planner
Agricultural Development Division
Iowa Finance Authority
2015 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
(515) 725-4919
Email
USDA Farm Service Agency Loan Programs
The FSA has a multitude of loan programs available for diverse operations and producers. Some are geared toward existing conventional operations while others focus on the needs of small, beginning, or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Below is an FSA FactSheet that describes the many loan programs FSA offers. The video to the right highlights a few of the programs on this FactSheet.

FSA has also published a more in-depth “Guide to Farm Loan Programs.” For more detailed information, its recommended you contact your local FSA Office, which can be located through the information provided in the “Assistance” tab to the right.

Brian Gossling, Iowa FSA Farm Loan Director describes the many programs available at the 2013 FVC IA Conference.

 

Download (PDF, 26KB)

Flexibility.  FSA has many loan programs that have been developed to help ensure capital is available to a diverse group of producers.

Interest Rate.  Some interest rates are fixed by the FSA while others are determined by private lenders.

Streamlined Processing.  FSA has loan programs, such as Microloans, specifically designed to make the application and approval process less complicated and provide a quicker turnaround time.

Again, FSA has many loan programs for a variety of farmers and ranchers with a diverse array of needs. Eligibility requirements differ from one program to the next.

Eligibility may be based on the type of loan for which you apply. For instance, the Microloan Program was specifically created to address the needs of small farmers that may not have the need for the large capital infusions available in other FSA loans and may also not have the resources or experience to meet the more stringent requirements for larger loans. Therefore, the Microloan Progrm requires less experience and has an expedited application process.

The process for FSA loans will be different depending on whether it is a guaranteed loan through a private lender a direct loan from FSA.

Contact your local USDA Service Center through the “Assistance” tab.

The 2014 Farm Bill included “Veteran Farmers and Ranchers” as a specific class of farmer with special benefits. One such benefit is that USDA Microloans to veterans do not count toward the seven year term limit for other USDA loans.

The term “veteran farmer or rancher” means a farmer or rancher who has served in the Armed Forces and who –

  1. has not operated a farm or ranch; or
  2. has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Service in the Armed Forces includes the:

  • Army,
  • Navy,
  • Marine Corps,
  • Air Force,
  • Coast Guard,
  • Reserves,
  • Army National Guard, and
  • Air National Guard.

FSA has personnel available to answer questions in USDA Service Centers across the state.

Locate your local Service Center here.

Visit the Iowa FSA website.

Contact the FSA Iowa Office:

Iowa State Farm Service Agency
10500 Buena Vista Court
Des Moines, IA 50322-3782

515-254-1540

Email

SBA Patriot Express Veterans Small Business Loans (Discontinued 01/01/2014)
This pilot program is discontinued as of January 1, 2014. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is now assisting veterans through the Express Loans’ Veterans Advantage. Details are provided in the Express Loan drop-down panel below.

This is a guaranteed loan program through the Small Business Administration. Veterans work with private lenders to secure loans and SBA guarantees repayment of most of the loan. In return, lenders are required to provide favorable interest rates and other terms to the borrower.

These loans are available for most small businesses, including farms. There are a few special considerations for agricultural operations that are provided under the “Farm Use” tab to the right.

The maximum loan amount is $500,000. Loans for smaller amounts have less stringent requirements and may include streamlined processing. For instance, Patriot Express loans for less than $25,000 do not have any mandatory collateral requirements.

The SBA’s guarantee reduces the risk for the lender. This provides a large incentive to approve loans. There are specific requirements of participating lenders that provide other substantial benefits to veterans.

Flexibility.  This loan provides borrowers with access to capital ranging from $5,000 to $500,000.

Interest Rate.  The rate may be fixed or variable, but lenders may not charge more than:

  • 2.25% over the prime rate for loans of less than seven years.
  • 2.75% over prime for loans greater than seven years.

Lenders may charge an additional 1% for loans of $50,000 or less and 2% more for loans of $25,000 or less.

Streamlined Processing.  The SBA turnaround time for approval is within 36 hours and lenders may use their own forms and procedures.

Business Eligibility.  All businesses seeking SBA Patriot Express loans must meet the eligibility requirements for any loan from the SBA. These include:

  1. Operating for profit,
  2. Doing business in the United States or its territories,
  3. Reasonable owner equity to invest,
  4. Qualify as a “small” business (see the panel on Farm Use to the right), and
  5. Lack of availability of financing from other resources.

Patriot Express loan businesses must also be 51% or more owned or controlled by a borrower that qualifies as an eligible veteran or service member.

Borrower Eligibility.  Patriot Express loans are available to the following individuals.

  1. Veterans with a discharge that is anything other than dishonorable.
  2. Active Duty Military who are within 24 months of retirement or 12 months of discharge.
  3. Members of the National Guard or Reserve, and
  4. Spouses of the above listed individuals or of a service member or veteran who died of a service-connected disability.

Borrowers apply and receive Patriot Express loans directly from private lenders. The lender will submit the application to the SBA.  The lender uses their own institution’s conventional loan documentation. The decision to make a loan remains with the private lender. This may require some shopping around.

The SBA does have a couple of mandatory requirements that must be met, though these will likely be required from any conventional lender, with or without the Patriot Express loan.

  1. Projected operating cashflow,
  2. A “Statement of Personal History” to demonstrate the willingness and ability to make payments on the loan,
  3. Evidence of management expertise and the commitment necessary, and
  4. A feasible business plan.

These loans are available for most small businesses. This includes farms but with a couple of caveats.

FSA Involvement.  The SBA does recommending contacting the Farm Service Agency prior to applying for any SBA loans. FSA may have more competitive loans and understands how to work with other lenders specifically in relation to financing farm operations. It is also simply beneficial to establish a relationship with your local FSA personnel as they administer a number of farm programs.

Farm as Small Business.  What qualifies as a small business is different depending on the type of business.  For purposes of the Small Business Administration, agricultural enterprises are considered small if average annual receipts are $750,000 or less. The amount is significantly greater for Cattle Feedlots and Chicken Egg Production, $7 million and $14 million respectively.

It is important to be sure to establish the precise business in which you’re involved. For most operations, it is easy to pinpoint farming as the primary business, but those engaged in value-added processing or with substantial agri-tourism operations should pay attention to how their business may be categorized by an outside observer.

Borrowers of Patriot Express loans will primarily work through the private lender administering the loan.

The Small Business Administration provides general guidance and information on their website or in-person.

Visit the SBA Patriot Express Loan web page.

Contact the SBA Iowa Office:

210 Walnut Street, Room 749
Des Moines, IA 50309

515-284-4422

Monday – Friday  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

SBA Veterans Advantage Express Loan

The SBA’s Express Loan is a guaranteed loan program through the Small Business Administration. Veterans work with private lenders to secure loans and SBA guarantees repayment of most of the loan. In return, lenders are required to provide favorable interest rates and other terms to the borrower.

The Veterans Advantage program eliminates the upfront fee for these Express Loans.

These loans are available for most small businesses, including farms. There are a few special considerations for agricultural operations that are provided under the “Farm Use” tab to the right.

The maximum loan amount under the Express Loan program is $350,000.

The SBA’s guarantee reduces the risk for the lender. This provides a large incentive to approve loans. There are specific requirements of participating lenders that provide other substantial benefits to veterans.

Flexibility.  This loan provides borrowers with up to $350,000.

Interest Rate.  The rate may be fixed or variable, but lenders may not charge more than:

  • 6.5% over the base rate for loans of $50,000 or less; and
  • 4.5% for loans over $50,000.

Streamlined Processing.  The SBA turnaround time for approval is within 36 hours and lenders may use their own forms and procedures.

No Fees.  Eligible veterans and spouses are able to receive up to $350,000 without paying the 3% upfront fee.

Business Eligibility.  All businesses seeking SBA Veterans Advantage Express loans must meet the eligibility requirements for any loan from the SBA. These include:

  1. Operating for profit,
  2. Doing business in the United States or its territories,
  3. Reasonable owner equity to invest,
  4. Qualify as a “small” business (see the panel on Farm Use to the right), and
  5. Lack of availability of financing from other resources.

Businesses applying for Veterans Advantage loans must also be 51% or more owned or controlled by a borrower that qualifies as an eligible veteran or service member.

Borrower Eligibility.  Veterans Advantage Express Loans are available to the following individuals.

  1. Veterans with a discharge that is anything other than dishonorable;
  2. Service-Disabled Veterans;
  3. Active Duty Military service member who is participating in the military Transition Assistance Program (TAP);
  4. Members of the National Guard or Reserve; and
  5. Spouses of the above listed individuals or of a service member or veteran who died of a service-connected disability.

Borrowers apply and receive Express loans directly from private lenders. The lender will submit the application to the SBA.  The lender uses their own institution’s conventional loan documentation. The decision to make a loan remains with the private lender. This may require some shopping around.

The SBA does have a couple of mandatory requirements that must be met, though these will likely be required from any conventional lender, with or without the Patriot Express loan.

  1. Projected operating cashflow,
  2. A “Statement of Personal History” to demonstrate the willingness and ability to make payments on the loan,
  3. Evidence of management expertise and the commitment necessary, and
  4. A feasible business plan.

These loans are available for most small businesses. This includes farms but with a couple of caveats.

FSA Involvement.  The SBA does recommending contacting the Farm Service Agency prior to applying for any SBA loans. FSA may have more competitive loans and understands how to work with other lenders specifically in relation to financing farm operations. It is also simply beneficial to establish a relationship with your local FSA personnel as they administer a number of farm programs.

Farm as Small Business.  What qualifies as a small business is different depending on the type of business.  For purposes of the Small Business Administration, agricultural enterprises are considered small if average annual receipts are $750,000 or less. The amount is significantly greater for Cattle Feedlots and Chicken Egg Production, $7 million and $14 million respectively.

It is important to be sure to establish the precise business in which you’re involved. For most operations, it is easy to pinpoint farming as the primary business, but those engaged in value-added processing or with substantial agri-tourism operations should pay attention to how their business may be categorized by an outside observer.

Borrowers of SBA Express loans will primarily work through the private lender administering the loan.

The Small Business Administration provides general guidance and information on their website or in-person.

Visit the SBA Website.

Contact the SBA Iowa Office:

210 Walnut Street, Room 749
Des Moines, IA 50309

515-284-4422

Monday – Friday  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

VA Home Loan Guaranty Program

This is a home loan guarantee program through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The loan is written and administered by a private lending institution, but the lender is guaranteed that a certain amount of the loan will be repaid. In return, the lender agrees to provide the veteran with the favorable terms set forth by the VA and listed here under the next tab, Benefits.

These loans are intended for residential home purchases, but it may be possible to use it for a farm purchase that also contains a residence. Learn more about how to use this VA program for your farm purchase under the “Farm Use” tab to the right.

This is probably the most advantageous home loan program available to veterans.  Here is why:

  1. A Down Payment is not necessary.
  2. No Mortgage Insurance is required.
  3. The VA may set the interest rate.
  4. There are limits on what can be charged for closing costs.
  5. Early pay-off penalties are not allowed.
  6. The VA may provide assistance if the borrower has trouble making payments.
  7. It may be used more than once.
  8. It is assumable by other qualified individuals.

To be eligible for a VA Home Loan the borrower must have a Certificate of Eligibility.

Certificates for active duty service members require a discharge other than dishonorable and service ranging from 90 days to 2 years depending on whether service was during wartime or peacetime.

National Guard and Reserve service requires at least six years in the Reserve or National Guard and at least one of the following:

  1. Honorable discharge
  2. Placement on the retired list
  3. Continuing to serve

Spouses of veterans who have died in service, are totally disabled, or are missing in action may also apply for home loan eligibility.

Borrowers must also meet the eligibility requirements established by the lending institution, such as minimum credit scores and debt to income ratios.

The private lender will be responsible for processing the loan and making sure all of the documentation is acquired. For the borrower, the process is very much the same as any other loan. There are a couple of unique aspects to the VA Home Loan process of which borrowers should be aware.

(1) Additional documentation will be needed in order to prove eligibility as a service member or qualifying veteran and to receive a Certificate of Eligibility. Veterans and service members should ensure they have a copy of their DD-214 or the equivalent for National Guard and Reserve members.

(2) There are strict appraisal guidelines, and the loan cannot exceed the appraised value. The lender will arrange for the VA appraisal. This requirement can prolong the closing process and the buyer and seller should be prepared for the process to take up to 45 days. The borrower should also ensure the purchase contract provides a clause that allows them to get out of the contract if the appraised value comes back lower than the contract price.

These loans are for helping veterans make a residential home purchase. They are not intended for the purchase of business properties, but may be used to purchase farmland if there is a residence on the property. There are a few key considerations in relation to this issue:

(1) Non-residential uses of the property, whether for a farm business or any other purpose, must be subordinate to the residential use. This means a large farm with extensive infrastructure and farm buildings is less likely to qualify than a house on a couple acres that may be used for garden farming. This presents obstacles for some farming veterans, but it may be ideal for small niche market farmers.

Note: If claiming that the home purchase is primarily for residential use, you may also want to speak with a tax adviser or attorney on any potential effects this may have on your property tax liability, as farm property in Iowa is taxed based on productivity rather than market value.

(1) The VA appraisal requirements will only consider the value of the land and other buildings in relation to their residential value. The appraiser will have a good deal of discretion in determining whether land, outbuildings, and other installed facilities, such as wells and septic systems, contribute to the desirability and residential aspects of the property.

(2) The VA loans are not available for fixer uppers. The home has to meet “Minimum Property Requirements” established by the VA and be move-in ready. This generally means it must comply with all local building codes, federal regulations, and generally be safe and sanitary.

(3) It may be possible to obtain an exemption or modification of the Minimum Property Requirements if certain conditions are common to a geographic area. This may be something to ask your lender about in relation to the purchase of a house in a rural area.

(4) It is possible to use a VA Home Loan to construct a house. It is more difficult to find a lender that is willing to take on such a loan.

Most lenders are familiar with VA Home Loans and will be able to explain the process. They will also be responsible for asking for the necessary documentation and will arrange the required appraisals for the loan.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can provide additional assistance and have further information on their website.

Visit the VA Website.

You can contact at the Des Moines Regional VA Office at:

210 Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50309

Phone: 800-827-1000

Iowa Military Home Ownership Assistance

Administered by the Iowa Finance Authority, this home ownership grant can provide $5000 to eligible service members and veterans.

Participants can receive $5,000 for a down payment and closing costs.

This is grant rather than a loan. This means the $5,000 does not have to be repaid.

Service member eligibility requirements include:

  • Discharge other than dishonorable, and
  • Active duty service for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001, or
  • A federal status injured service person having served in active duty since September 11, 2001, or
  • A surviving spouse of an eligible service person.

It is only available for:

  • Home purchases in Iowa
  • Home purchases that are the borrower’s primary residence
  • Home purchases after March 10, 2005
  • Single family residences, including houses, condos, townhomes, duplexes, and manufactured homes attached to a permanent foundation

The Military Home Ownership grant may only be used once.

The first step is to find a Iowa Finance Authority Participating Lender. Participating lenders will take care of the process for obtaining the grant.

There are a couple of other issues to be aware of:

  • Approval for the grant must be obtained prior to closing.
  • You will need to provide a copy of your DD Form 214.
  • You will likely need four months of leave and earnings statements, three years of tax returns, and a government issued photo ID.

While the program cannot be used to purchase business property, you may be able to use it to purchase a home that also has land for farming.

It is important to note, that the purchase must be used as the buyer’s primary residence. It cannot be for a house that is lived in on a part-time basis and it must be the service member or eligible spouse that resides in the home.

The Iowa Finance Authority has additional information on their website as well as a locator tool for finding a participating lender.

Learn More.Find a Lender.

You can also contact the Iowa Finance Authority at:

Iowa Finance Authority
2015 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa 50312

Phone: 515-725-4900 or 800-432-7230

SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) provides grants and education to advance innovations in sustainable agriculture. The SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program exclusively funds farmers and ranchers striving for agricultural sustainability.

These grants can provide funding for individuals or groups of farmers and ranchers to increase sustainability through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects.

The projects may be conducted by individual farmers or groups. Each project may last for up to 22 months.

The request for proposals is usually released in early August with funding decisions the following Spring.

SARE grants are administered on a regional basis as illustrated below.

 

North Central

Western

Southern

Northeast

SARE Farmer Rancher grants may be up to:

  • $7,500 for individuals
  • $15,000 for partners
  • $22,500 for groups

The outreach and networking components of a SARE project also assist in development of networking and sharing between farmers as well as relationships with service-providers and consumers.

Producer Eligibilty

Anyone who operates a farm or ranch may apply. Applicants must be up to date on reports of any previous SARE grants. Grants to applicants under 21 must be signed by a parent or guardian.

Partner applicants must be from two separate farming or ranching operations. Group applicants must be from at least three separate farms or ranches.

Project Eligibility

SARE Farmer Rancher grants are intended to provide innovate sustainable agriculture research, demonstration, and education projects. They are not for everyday farming expenses. SARE describes “sustainable agriculture” as farming and ranching that is ecologically sound, profitable, and socially responsible.

Sustainable practices include, but are not limited to:

  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • Rotational Grazing (e.g. Management Intensive & Mob Grazing)
  • Soil Erosion Control
  • Soil Quality Improvement
  • Water Quality Improvement
  • Wetlands
  • Cover Crops
  • Nutrient Management
  • Agroforestry
  • Value-added Production
  • Direct Farm Marketing
  • Wildlife Preservation
  • Beneficial Insects
  • Poultry & Small-Scale Livestock
  • Holistic Systems Approaches
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Proactive Weed Control (e.g. Interseeded cover crops and use of crop rotations)

Past SARE grants have included projects that address these sustainable practices as well as health & safety of employees, labor issues, and quality of life issues.

Requests for Proposals are typically released in August and proposals are due in late November. Funding decisions are made the following Spring and the first funding is made available in early Summer.

Proposals must be sent via mail or email. All proposals will contain:

  • Project Proposal: The general information about the problem addressed and the project.
  • Budget:  A list of each expense and an explanation of its use.
  • Reference Letter: A community member explaining why the project is needed and how it will benefit the community.
  • Letter from Financial Instituion:  Required only if the project requires a loan.

SARE grants do not have specific guidelines or requirements relating to military veterans.

As sustainability does include social responsibility and previous SARE grants have included projects focusing on quality of life issues, there may be opportunities for grants specifically addressing veterans issues.

North Central SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program Website and Contact:

Joan Benjamin 
Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator and Associate Regional Coordinator
NCR-SARE
Lincoln University in Missouri
Lorenzo J. Greene Hall
900 Leslie Blvd, Room 101
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Phone: 573-681-5545
Tollfree: 800-529-1342
E-mail: BenjaminJ@lincolnu.edu

USDA Value-Added Producer Grants

The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) Program is administered by USDA Rural Development. The purpose is to help farmers and ranchers start or expand value-added processing and marketing. This includes economic planning, such as development of business plans and marketing strategies, as well as working capital activities to implement processing or marketing.

The grant does require a dollar-for-dollar match from farmer recipients, meaning the farmer will pay, or have to find other funding, for half of the costs of the project. These funds must be available at commencement of the project.

This is a competitive grant program that typically takes applications once a year as established by the USDA. The current cycle had an application deadline of February 24, 2014. The next deadline will likely be in early 2015.

Grant recipients can receive half of the costs for developing, beginning, or expanding their value-added enterprise, including up to:

  • $75,000 for planning projects, and
  • $200,000 for working capital projects.

Producer.  These grants are available to four groups as defined by the USDA.

  • Independent Producer:  An individual or entity directly engaged in the production of an agricultural commodity, or that has the right to harvest an agricultural commodity.
  • Agricultural Producer Group:  An organization that represents producers and the majority of the organization’s membership and board is made up of producers.
  • Farmer or Rancher Cooperative:  A cooperatively operated business that is owned and controlled by independent producers.
  • Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Business Venture:  An entity in which more than 50% of the ownership and control is held by independent producers.

Grants will not be given for projects that have previously received funding through the VAPG.

Project.

The term “value-added” refers to an agricultural commodity that:

  1. has undergone a change in its physical state;
  2. was produced, marketed or segregated in a way that enhances its value or expands the customer base; or
  3. is aggregated and marketed as a locally-produced food.

There are two types of project eligible under the VAPG program.

Economic Planning Activities. These projects include conducting feasibility studies and developing business plans for processing and marketing the proposed value-added product.

Working Capital Expenses. These projects include processing costs, marketing and advertising expenses, inventory expenses, and salaries, which are all directly related to the value-added project.

For both types of projects at least fifty-percent of the commodities needed must be supplied by the applicant. They must also demonstrate that the project will expand the customer base and increase revenues.

VAPG funds cannot be used to purchase property or equipment or construct buildings.

  1. Review the Invitation for Application, which is usually released in November or December.
  2. Contact the state Rural Development Office. (Contact information for each state.)
  3. Obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number, available here.
  4. Register in the System for Awards Management here.
  5. Draft a proposal.
  6. Submit to the state office for review and comments.
  7. Revise the proposal.
  8. Submit the final proposal through grants.gov before the deadline.

Awards are usually announced in the Spring following the deadline.

Congress included “Veteran Farmers” for the first time in the 2014 Farm Bill. Veteran farmers are now eligible for a number of benefits including a mandated priority for the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

The term “veteran farmer or rancher” means a farmer or rancher who has served in the Armed Forces and who –

  1. has not operated a farm or ranch; or
  2. has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Service in the Armed Forces includes the:

  • Army,
  • Navy,
  • Marine Corps,
  • Air Force,
  • Coast Guard,
  • Reserves,
  • Army National Guard, and
  • Air National Guard.

Applicants are encouraged to contact State USDA Rural Development Offices for assistance.

Find your State USDA Rural Development Office.

Visit the VAPG website.

For further information contact:

Grants Division, Cooperative Programs
Rural Business-Cooperative Service
United States Dept. of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
MS-3250, Room 4016-South
Washington DC 20250-3250

or call 202-720-8460

Access to Land

Access to land is, of course, a significant challenge for any beginning farmer. There are many programs to assist in overcoming this challenge at the state and federal level. They primarily consist of farm link programs to match landowners with beginning farmers, incentives to landowners to make land available, and set-asides of government land for access by beginning farmers.

Most of these programs are available to any beginning farmer, but some do have special considerations or additional incentives for military veterans.

Iowa Ag Link Program

Ag Link is administered by the Beginning Farmer Center (BFC) at Iowa State University.

The program is a service to help preserve the family farm business by matching beginning farmers who do not own land, with retiring farmers who do not have heirs to continue the family farm business.

Ag Link maintains a database of potential beginning farmers and landowners. The BFC staff will help orchestrate matches and provide assistance throughout the transition process.

The Ag Link program not only assists beginning farmers in locating land but also in transitioning an existing farm business. This can assist beginning farmers by:

  • Providing access to land,
  • Providing access to equipment,
  • Establishing a mentor relationship,
  • Avoiding large debt needed for start-up costs

Ag Link is available to beginning farmers who:

  • Want find a way to pursue or continue their farming career,
  • Desire to farm but lack the financial means,
  • Are willing to invest sweat equity in return for an opportunity to farm, and
  • Are not currently a farm land owner.

The farmer does not have to be an Iowa resident, though non-Iowa residents must pay a $50 administration fee with their application.

  1. Complete the application. You can print it and mail or fax. You can download it, type your responses in the fields, then print and mail or fax (you can not save the form once completetd unless you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat software).
  2. If you are not an Iowa resident, there is a $50 registration fee for beginning farmers. Include a check made out to Beginning Farmer Center with your application. If you are matched with an Iowa farmer the $50 registration fee can be refunded.
  3. When the Ag Link Coordinator receives your application, he will place the information in our database of those interested in the program.
  4. When a retiring farmer contacts us to help find an interested beginning farmer or farm family, we go to our database to begin the matching process.

After you receive a call and an invitation to meet with a retiring farmer, you will be ready for the next step – meeting. What happens when you meet?

  • You will talk about your expectations and goals.
  • If your personalities gel and you both feel comfortable, together you will develop a transition plan to use as a guide as you begin working together.
  • We will help you complete a financial analysis of your farming operation in order to determine whether there is enough income for everyone involved to feel secure – that the finances are sufficient to meet expectations.
  • Each of you will exchange references – both personal and financial.
  • Both of you will talk to your own trusted advisors, such as your family, personal accountant, and lawyer, etc. to help you draw up a formal agreement based on your plan.

Veteran status is included in the Beginning Farmer Application. The applicant’s status as a veteran will be included in the database. This may be one factor retiring farmers consider when seeking a new farmer to whom they can transition the farm business.

More information and the application is available on the Beginning Farmer Center Ag Link website.

You can also view current opportunities posted by retiring farmers.

Contact the Beginning Farmer Center staff at:

Beginning Farmer Center
10861 Douglas Avenue, Suite B
Urbandale, IA 50322
877-BFC-1999
bfc@iastate.edu
Practical Farmers of Iowa's Find-a-Farmer

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) provides this program to help facilitate the exchange of land from one generation to the next.

Both beginning farmers looking for land and landowners seeking a beginning farmer can register and post their information online. It will then be available for other users to view via the Find-a-Farmer interactive map.

Find-a-Farmer facilitates matches between landowners and farmers. This may benefit beginning farmers by:

  • Facilitating conversations between landowners and beginning farmers,
  • Providing access to land, and
  • Potentially creating a mentorship relationship.

This PFI program is available to beginning farmers.

PFI defines a beginning farmer as “someone who has 10 or fewer years experience managing his or her own farm business.

  1. Visit www.findafarmer.net.
  2. Complete and submit the registration form.
  3. View the interactive map to find landowners.
  4. Send messages to landowners you’d like to contact.

This program currently does not contain specific considerations for military veterans.

More information and current land available can be found on the PFI website.

To learn more contact:

Practical Farmers of Iowa
600 Fifth Street, Suite 100
Ames, IA 50010
515-232-5661
info@practicalfarmers.org
Iowa Beginning Farmer Tax Credit

The Iowa Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (officially titled the Agricultural Assets Transfer Tax Credit) is administered by the Iowa Finance Authority’s Agricultural Development Division.

The program provides an incentive to owners of agricultural assets to lease farm land to beginning farmers by providing a tax credit on state income taxes. The tax credit is available for leasing of agricultural land, buildings, machinery and equipment, and breeding livestock.

A tax credit is also available to landowners who hire a beginning farmer to custom-farm agricultural land.

An agricultural asset owner may obtain a tax credit for each lease with a qualified beginning farmer.

This program provides a 7% tax credit to landowners who enter into a cash-rent lease and a 17% credit for crop-share leases.

The program assists beginning farmers in a number of ways, including:

  • Promotes land access for beginning farmers,
  • Promotes crop-share lease contracts, which distribute cost and risk to both landowner and tenant,
  • Potentially decreases rent for beginning farmers, and
  • Ensures a lease term beyond year-to-year.

Beginning Farmer Qualifications:

  • The beginning farmer, as well as any partners, shareholders, or members must be Iowa residents.
  • Must have a low or moderate net worth. For 2013, the maximum was $678,731.
  • Must have sufficient education, training, or experience in the type of farming pursued.
  • Must have adequate working capital, equipment, machinery, and livestock for a success farm operation.
  • Must materially and substantially participate in the farming.

Asset Owner Qualifications:

  • The owner must be in compliance with Iowa’s “Corporate Farming Law,” found in Chapter’s 9H and 9I of the Iowa Code.
  • Must be in compliance with all Iowa Department of Natural Resources regulations regarding animal feeding operations.
  • Must not be a habitual violator of animal feeding operation regulations.

  1. Both the beginning farmer and the asset owner submit applications by the 1st of every month and no later than September 1 of the year the credit will be claimed.
  2. Both parties must provide supporting documentation.
  3. Both parties pay applicable application fees.
  4. Both parties receive an approval letter.
  5. The asset owner will receive a tax credit certificate by January 31.

The Iowa Beginning Farmer Tax Credit contains an additional incentive to landowners who lease farm land to a beginning farmer who is also a military veteran.

If the farmer is a veteran, the landowner can receive an additional one percent tax credit on state income taxes during the first year of the lease. The additional one percent applies to both cash-rent and crop-share lease arrangements.

More information is available through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) website.

You can contact the Iowa Agricultural Development Division of IFA here:

Steve Ferguson
Program Planner
Agricultural Development Division
Iowa Finance Authority
2015 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
(515) 725-4919
Email
Iowa Beginning Farmer Loan Program (for Landowner Contract Sales)

The Beginning Farmer Loan program is also administered by Iowa Agricultural Development Division. This program is also listed on the “Financing” page as it is usually lenders making loans to beginning farmers that take advantage of the program. It is also listed here because landowners who sell land on contract (also referred to as “installment contracts” or a “mortgage for deed”) are also eligible for a federal and state tax deduction on interest payments for farm land sold to a beginning farmer.

The IADD issues federal tax exempt bonds and interest from the loans or contract sales are also exempt from state taxes. This allows the lender or seller to offer a lower interest rate to the farmer.

IADD does not set the interest rate, and the terms of the loan, including interest rate, length, prepayment options, service fees, and repayment schedule must be negotiated between the borrower and lender or seller. The maximum loan amount is $501,100 as of January 1, 2014.

The BFLP’s tax exemption on interest provides a strong incentive for lenders and seller’s to provide credit to beginning farmers. It also provides leverage for the borrower to receive a lower interest rate. The rate for BFLP loans are typically one to four percentage points below the prevailing market rate.

Using the program under an installment contract directly with the landowner also provides certain benefits. The landowner will receive interest payments and capital gains taxes will be spread out over the life of the contract. It may also allow beginning farmers with little or poor credit history the opportunity to access land without going through loan application procedures.

There are certain risks with installment contracts that should be explored.

This program is available to Iowa Beginning Farmers. To be a Beginning Farmer for the purposes of this loan the application must:

  • Be an Iowa resident,
  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application,
  • Materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm and assume financial risk,
  • Own no more land than 30% of the county median,
  • Have a net worth of less than $691,172, and
  • Have sufficient education and training and access to machinery to operate a production operation.

  1. Obtain a copy of the Beginning Farmer Loan Program Application.
  2. Complete application with lender or seller.
  3. Negotiate loan terms, including interest rate, length of loan, prepayment options, service fees and repayment schedule with lender or seller.
  4. Submit application, financial statement, background letter, other required materials and non-refundable application fee to IADD by the 1st of the month.
  5. A public hearing will be conducted during the board meeting on beginning farmer loan projects, at which time, the IADD Board may approve the bond resolution.
  6. After adoption of the final bond resolution, all parties may close the loans.

Application deadlines for all Agricultural Development Division programs are the first of the month.

There are no considerations exclusive to military veterans in this program.

More information is available through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) website.

You can contact the Iowa Agricultural Development Division of IFA here:

Steve Ferguson
Program Planner
Agricultural Development Division
Iowa Finance Authority
2015 Grand Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
(515) 725-4919
Email
CRP Transition Incentive Program

The USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Transition Incentive Program (TIP) encourages retiring farmers with expiring CRP contracts to transition land to beginning, socially disadvantaged, and military veteran farmers and ranchers.

The purpose of the program is to make land available to new farmers while ensuring that land coming out of CRP is farmed or grazed in a sustainable manner.

This program is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

This program provides benefits to beginning farmers and the landowners that sell or lease farmland to a new farmer.

Beginning Farmer benefits include:

  • Making more land available to beginning farmers by encouraging landowners to sell or lease to them.
  • Allowing Beginning Farmers to prepare CRP land for production prior to the CRP contract termination.

Landowner benefits include:

  • Two years of additional CRP payments beyond contract expiration.
  • Rental income on CRP land prior to contract expiration.

The retiring farmer or rancher  must be an owner or operator of land enrolled in a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract who has ended active labor in farming as a producer of agricultural crops or expects to do so within five years.

The retiring farmer must sell or lease the property to an individual or entity in one of the following categories:

The beginning farmer or rancher must be a person or entity who has not been a farm or ranch operator for more than 10 years.

A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is a farmer or rancher who is a member of a group whose members have historically been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as a member of that group. For this program, gender is not included.

A veteran farmer or rancher is a person who has not been a farm or ranch operator for more than 10 years and who served in a branch of the United States Military. The specifics of this qualification are discussed further in the below section on “Veteran Uses.”

The first step is finding land currently in CRP with a landowner interested in selling or leasing the property to a beginning farmer.

Once you’ve found a landowner interested in participating in the program, you’ll need to contact your local FSA office to submit the application and complete the paperwork needed to modify the CRP contract.

The 2014 Farm Bill included “Veteran Farmers and Ranchers” as a specific class of farmer with special benefits. One such benefit is that veteran farmers do qualify for the Transition Incentive Program.

The term “veteran farmer or rancher” means a farmer or rancher who has served in the Armed Forces and who –

  1. has not operated a farm or ranch; or
  2. has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Service in the Armed Forces includes the:

  • Army,
  • Navy,
  • Marine Corps,
  • Air Force,
  • Coast Guard,
  • Reserves,
  • Army National Guard, and
  • Air National Guard.
Iowa DNR Lease to Beginning Farmers Program

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) oversees the DNR Lease to Beginning Farmers Program. This program gives beginning farmers the first chance to lease DNR owned land.

Depending on the property and specific conservation and wildlife concerns the DNR leases may contain particular stipulations in regard to planting food plots, restricted forage cutting dates, and other conservation practices.

Each beginning farmer is limited to a maximum of 240 acres of crop ground under this program. There is no such limit on pasture land.

Land available for rent will be posted on the DNR Realty website by November 1.

This program provides several benefits to beginning farmers, including:

  • Access to land
  • Rent based on the market and costs of conservation practices rather than bids,
  • the potential for long-term leases (up to seven years), and
  • experience managing farmland with conservation and wildlife priorities.

Potential tenants must become certified as a Beginning Farmer. This requires:

  • Residency of the farmer in Iowa as well as all partners, shareholders, or members, if applicable.
  • A net worth below the established allowable net worth. For 2013 the maximum was $691,172.
  • Sufficient education, training, and experience, and
  • Material and substantial participation in the farm operation by the beginning farmer.

  1. Review available DNR land at the DNR Realty website.
  2. Contact appropriate DNR staff.
  3. Submit an application for certification to the Agricultural Development Division of the Iowa Finance Authority.
  4. Submit a financial statement for the beginning farmer, witnessed by a bank officer.
  5. Submit a financial statement for the farm business.
  6. Submit a letter describing sufficient education, training, and experience.
  7. If certified, leases are awarded in December.

This program currently does not contain specific considerations for military veterans.

More information and current land available can be found on the DNR Realty website.

To learn more contact:

Todd Rozendaal
Land Management
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
515-281-8621
Email

Applications and supporting documents are submitted to:

Iowa Finance Authority
2015 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50312
515-725-4901
iadd@iowa.gov
2016 Conference Registration
Join us for the 2016 Veterans In Agriculture Annual Conference on September 24, 2016 by registering here. Check here to learn more about the conference.