Tester: It just makes sense to get more veterans involved in agriculture

Senator hears from Flaxville farmer about helping veterans transition from the battlefield to the wheat field

(U.S. Senate)-Continuing his effort to help Montana veterans and our state’s agriculture economy, Senator Jon Tester is pushing to increase opportunities for veterans to transition from the battlefield to the wheat field.

During a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, Tester heard testimony from Paul Kanning, a farmer from Flaxville, Montana.

Tester invited Kanning, an Air Force combat veteran, who used the Farm Bill’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Initiative and the Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program to transition from being an active duty officer to a Montana farmer.

“In Montana, agriculture is our state’s number one industry. Couple that with the fact we have one of the highest rates of veterans per capita, it just makes sense to get more veterans involved in family farm agriculture,” Tester said. “This is about jobs, the economy, and honoring our commitment to those who have served.”

In 2014, Tester helped pass the Farm Bill, which included specific resources to help military veteran farmers through loan assistance, crop insurance, conservation incentives, and training.

“I am the fourth generation of my family to operate the farm, which is now 103 years old,” said Kanning. “During my transition to my farming career, following 20 years as an active duty officer, I faced obstacles which many beginning farmers confront. I also seized on many opportunities to alleviate those challenges.”

To overcome his challenges – which included adopting conservation practices on his farm, obtaining financing, and accessing training and technical assistance – Kanning used an array of federal agricultural programs targeted toward veteran and beginning farmers.

As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Tester has worked to secure funding for the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Initiative, which supports military veterans transitioning into production agriculture. The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Initiative provides education, training, and mentoring programs to help folks get their operation off the ground. He has also supported funding for outreach initiatives within USDA that target veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Tester also highlighted the Armed to Farm program operated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, which is headquartered in Butte. The Armed to Farm program has developed a sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans that provides classroom and on-farm training, as well as an introduction to USDA agencies and programs.

Recently, Tester visited Operation Veterans Harvest in Missoula, a non-profit program that assists veterans interested in starting a career in agriculture.

Tester is also sponsoring the VET Act, which provides veterans access to resources provided by the Small Business Administration to start and grow a small business.