Veterans connect at annual conference

A veteran’s sense of service and work ethic draws a distinct parallel to the skills and dedication required for successful farming and ranching.

The second annual Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference is an opportunity for veterans to connect with fellow former service members who are engaged in or interested in farming. Farmers looking to transition operations to veteran farmers, or who are willing to mentor, are also encouraged to attend.

Sponsored by the Center for Rural Affairs and Legal Aid of Nebraska, the event is set for Saturday, March 24, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Central Community College-Hastings, 550 Technical Blvd., Hastings, Nebraska.

Session topics include programs available to veterans interested in farming, diversified agriculture, conservation, and agritourism.

“As rural America seeks to attract residents to communities and into the agricultural sector, military veterans have a significant contribution to make,” said Cora Fox, policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs and officer in the Iowa Air National Guard. “This conference will connect veterans with a network that can assist them in beginning and growing their farms and ranches.”

Conference attendance is free. Preregistration is required by March 16. Residents of any state may attend. Register at cfra.org/AnsweringTheCall.

Last year’s conference inspires bill in Nebraska legislature

Among presenters for this year’s Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference is Mariel Barreras.

Mariel, along with her husband, Lt. Col. Anthony Barreras, currently on mission with the U.S. Army, own Barreras Family Farm outside of Omaha, where they raise chickens and goats, and host school tours.

“For many veterans, dreams of farming begin with time spent on a farm during their childhood or an opportunity presented to them during their time in service to our nation,” Barreras said.

However, access to land and financial resources needed to transition from military service to farming can be a challenge. Proposed Legislative Bill 684, the Beginning Veteran Farmer Tax Credit, seeks to expand Nebraska’s existing beginning farmer tax credit program by adding a 1 percent incentive for property and landowners who rent to qualified beginning veteran farmers.

Under current statute, a 10 percent tax credit on cash rent, or 15 percent credit on the value of a sharecrop or cow-calf share rent, is available to the property owner when they rent to a qualified beginning farmer. The proposed revision would increase the incentive to 11 percent and 16 percent if the property is rented to a qualified beginning veteran farmer.

The state can do more for beginning veteran farmers. Building upon the successful framework of the existing tax credit, the addition of a 1 percent incentive for landowners who rent to beginning veteran farmers gives back to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

The idea for the legislation was drawn from conversation between beginning veteran farmers and Center staff during last year’s Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference.

Feature photo: Attendees of the 2017 Answering the Call: Veteran Farmer Conference tour Ficke Family Farms near Pleasantdale, Nebraska. The second annual conference is set for March 24 in Hastings, Nebraska. The event presents an opportunity for veterans to connect with fellow former service members who are engaged in or interested in farming. | Photo by Rhea Landholm

Inset photo: Mariel Barreras (right) talks with Sen. Carol Blood at the Nebraska Unicameral in January.