The Farm Credit Council and Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership

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1 The Farm Credit Council and Farmer Veteran Coalition Partnership Collaboration Guide for Farm Credit Institutions

2 2 Introduction: 45 percent of returning veterans come from and will return to rural America. Returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan have become the latest group of veterans in need of employment and who, by some measures, may be the most likely young people to enter into agriculture and other rural-based businesses. As service members return from active duty they tend to return to their rural communities, and sometimes have difficulties finding long term employment, and often need additional assistance in accessing capital to start farm businesses. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has frequently mentioned that 45 percent of returning veterans come from and will return to rural America, a startlingly large percentage considering only 17 percent of the U.S. population calls rural communities home. In addition, veterans have been shown to be exceptional entrepreneurs. In 2010, the Small Business Administration reported that the success rate of a veteran-owned business is higher than that of the general population. Recently, the Farm Credit Council (FCC) increased its collaboration with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC), an organization aimed at mobilizing veterans to enter agriculture and help feed America while rebuilding rural communities. FCC and FVC have partnered to help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian work force. The vision for the partnership is to connect the talent and experience that Farm Credit System institutions have in financial and business skills, with farmer veterans whom the FVC has identified as potentially needing such assistance. As the partnership progresses, the opportunities are limitless for local Farm Credit institutions to get involved and help returning warriors with such things as financial skills training, business plan writing, mentoring, or other programs such as a used equipment exchange. (Continued on page 3)

3 3 (Continued from page 2) We hope that the materials included in this packet will provide Farm Credit institutions with a simple framework outlining the many different ways to participate in this new partnership and assist returning veterans interested in staking their futures in agriculture and rural America. The following information is just a starting point. We encourage you to share this information within your institution, identify champions, engage with the FVC and find the best ways to serve those who have served us all in the military. We encourage you to customize these initiatives to fit your business model, region, and individual Farm Credit brand. What s Inside: As the Farm Credit/Farmer-Veteran Coalition partnership grows, we hope to include and engage every Farm Credit institution to help introduce veterans and our military communities to the business opportunities agriculture can offer. This packet includes: How to Get Started Ways to Get Involved Getting the Word Out Sample News Release Communicating to Board and Stakeholders Sample Letter to Military Employment Centers Reaching Out to Your Members of Congress Additional Resources and Contact Information

4 4 Get Started: A main function of the Farm Credit Council and Farmer-Veteran Coalition Partnership will be to help farmer-veterans make contact with individual organizations that can provide a large scope of assistance to farmers. To do this, the Farmer-Veteran Coalition will refer potential farmer veterans to their local Farm Credit Associations as a resource. To prepare for these potential contacts, below is a list of actions an Association may consider taking to ensure these calls are serving both the veterans and the Association. Designate a specific individual within the Association as the farmer-veteran contact person Ensure all staff are aware of who the designated farmer-veteran person is or how to refer farmer-veteran calls. Create a plan to align your Association s young, beginning, and small farmer programs with the needs of YBS veterans and even older more established farmer-veterans. If there is a military base in the area, make contact with the employment liaison for active duty members getting ready to transition to civilian employment to better understand the information future farmer-veterans already have. Create an internal working group to decide how to best serve future farmerveterans.

5 5 Get Involved: In 2010, the SBA reported that the success rate of a veteranowned business is higher than that of the general population. Get to Know your Farmer-Veteran Borrowers Better Every Farm Credit institution is already lending to numerous farmerveterans. These may be older veterans from past wars, or recently returned veterans who are assimilating back into their family-owned operations. The best way to understand the unique challenges and needs of future generations of farmer-veterans is to go right to the source. An Association may want to consider creating an advisory committee of existing farmer-veteran borrowers. The advisory committee can help the Association create materials that will speak directly to potential veteran costumers. The committee can also help the Association get a better handle on what veterans are looking for when they are shopping for loans and what specific guidance they may need in understanding credit issues and lending information. Finally, the committee can serve as ambassadors to returning veterans by helping to spread the word that Farm Credit is willing and able to address the needs of veterans looking to enter into agriculture. Another way to get to know farmer-veterans better is to hold a coffee or breakfast at Farm Credit offices, or another location, in which the local Association invites both existing farmer-veterans and veterans interested in agriculture to come meet one another and get to know Farm Credit better. The Association may want to consider creating a presentation geared specifically to future farmer-veterans or may want to keep the conversation informal and utilize the meeting as an information gathering opportunity to find ways to better tailor Farm Credit materials to the needs of veterans. (Continued on page 6)

6 6 Get Involved: (Continued from page 5) Create a Branded Farmer-Veteran Welcome Packet for the Association An association may want to consider creating an information packet specifically designed to meet the needs of farmer-veterans. This packet could include general information about Farm Credit, any existing programs the Association has that are specific to veterans, general information about Farm Credit loans, and information about YBS programs. Sponsor a Farmer Veteran Coalition Equipment Exchange Many times returning veterans have access to land through family members and friends and may even have experience in agriculture, but they may lack the equipment needed to get started. Associations can help create bridges between existing producers and farmer-veterans by sponsoring a Farmer Veteran Coalition farm equipment exchange. Used equipment exchanges are a new program being established by the Farmer Veteran Coalition that might be suitable for assistance by Associations. By utilizing an online platform or a bulletin board within Association branches, Farm Credit can help to match used farm equipment with farmer-veterans who need just a little extra help to get started. Nominate a Farmer-Veteran for the Farmcredit.com Producing Excellence Page The Farmcredit.com Producing Excellence page has highlighted more than 100 customers. A great way to celebrate your farmer-veterans is to nominate one to be featured on the Producing Excellence Page. Included in this packet you will find the nominating form and instructions regarding how to nominate a farmer-veteran customer. (Continued on page 7)

7 7 Get Involved: (Continued from page 6) Create an Adopt-a-Farmer-Veteran Mentoring Program Who better to help a farmer-veteran learn how to create a successful agriculture business then an existing Farm Credit customer or employee, particularly one who may be a veteran? An adopt-a-farmer program will help to engage existing customers to support farmer-veterans and ensure that new farmerveterans are getting the best agriculture advice available. Mentors should be individuals who are established in their respective fields and are willing to volunteer to help veteran farmers with questions about their operations. Farm Credit associations can help to make these mentorship introductions as well as advertise the opportunity to both existing customers and new farmer-veterans. Help Farmer Veterans Get Educated about Opportunities in Agriculture Despite best efforts, many veterans are not aware of what benefits are available to them as veterans or how to practically apply those benefits. An association may want to consider creating a veteran resource guide which helps to identify both federal and state agriculture loan and grant programs specific to veterans. Or an association may consider re-branding and editing the existing Farmer-Veteran Coalition Collaboration Guide, to better meet the needs of both the association and its regional scope. (Continued on page 8)

8 8 Get Involved: (Continued from page 7) Make Sure Everyone at Your Association, from Board Members to Loan Officers, Understands the Unique Circumstances of Returning Veterans Ensuring Farm Credit staff is educated about farmer-veterans is a good way to ensure the entire staff is engaged in assisting farmer-veterans. Associations can create staff workshops to ensure everyone has a better understanding of the unique challenges facing our returning military veterans. Associations may also want to invite a working farmer-veteran to speak to staff about their experiences as both a farmer and a veteran. Inviting a farmer-veteran to speak at a future Farm Credit board meeting is another way to make certain the entire association is engaged in helping returning veterans have successful agriculture careers.

9 9 Communicate: Sample News Release: Below is a sample news release that can be customized with your institution s information to communicate to the public about your efforts to engage with farmer veterans. ASSOCIATION NAME Supports Returning Veterans Entering Agriculture STATE, Date ASSOCIATION NAME, a provider of financing and related services to agricultural producers and agribusiness, has joined a national effort to support returning servicemen and women in joining or creating viable agricultural businesses. The national Farm Credit System has partnered with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization aimed at mobilizing veterans to enter agriculture and help feed America while rebuilding rural communities. More than 45% of returning veterans are expected to rejoin rural communities from which they came. ASSOCIATION NAME will be working with participating farmer veterans, providing financial skills training, business plan writing, mentoring, and access to other related programs. [Customize list as appropriate.] This is an ideal opportunity for us to help our returning warriors get established for long-term success in agriculture, says CEO NAME. Through their service to our country, they ve proven that they have the work ethic and dedication that agriculture also demands, and we have the expertise to help them learn about the business of farming. Farm Credit s national efforts are being coordinated through the Farm Credit Council, the national trade organization that represents the System. For more information about these national efforts, contact NAME, PHONE/ . To learn more about local efforts, contact LOCAL CONTACT NAME, PHONE/ . About Farm Credit: Lending Support to Rural America For nearly a century, Farm Credit has been a national provider of credit and related services to rural America through a cooperative network of customerowned lending institutions and specialized service organizations. Created by Congress in 1916, the Farm Credit System provides more than $191 billion in loans and leases to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives. For more information about the Farm Credit System, please visit About ASSOCIATION NAME Insert Association boilerplate.

10 10 Communicate: Communication to Board and Stakeholders: Below are talking points that can be used in building support among your Board and stakeholder groups for your association s outreach efforts to veterans. The Farm Credit System takes pride in serving the diversity of farm businesses as a sound, dependable and farmer-owned source of credit. Farm Credit institutions are leading providers of credit to young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers, which reflects our mission of service. It is estimated that 45 percent of veterans leaving military service come from, and will return to, rural America. Among these returning veterans are the next generation of farmers and agricultural business leaders. Recently, the Farm Credit Council increased its collaboration with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization aimed at mobilizing veterans to enter agriculture. The Farmer Veteran Coalition seeks to develop viable employment and meaningful careers for these returning veterans, through the collaboration of the agriculture and military communities. The Farm Credit Council and the Farmer Veteran coalition have partnered to help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian work force. The vision for this partnership is to connect the talent and experience that Farm Credit System institutions have in financial and business skills, with farmer veterans whom the FVC has identified as potentially needing such assistance. Our institution plans to participate in this initiative in a number of ways, to reach out to existing and future veteran-borrowers, and to develop programs to help them to succeed.

11 11 Communicate: Sample Outreach Letter to Military Employment Centers: Below is a sample letter that can be customized with your institution s information to communicate to military and veteran employment centers. To Whom it May Concern: The Farm Credit System was created by Congress in 1916 to serve the credit needs of America s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. The System is a nationwide network of borrower-owned lending institutions. Farm Credit provides more than $190 billion in loans, leases, and related services to farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, aquatic producers, timber harvesters, agribusinesses, and agricultural and rural utility cooperatives. We at Farm Credit Association, are continually assessing ways in which we can better serve farmers, ranchers and rural America. That is why we have recently increased our collaboration with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization aimed at mobilizing veterans to enter agriculture and help feed America while rebuilding rural communities. The goal of our partnership is to help find farm ownership or employment opportunities for members of the military transitioning into the civilian work force. The vision for the partnership is to connect the talent and experience of our loan officers, crop insurance agents, and financial planners who have financial and business knowledge and resources, with veterans interested in careers related to agriculture. With the guidance of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, we have developed the following programs specifically tailored to the needs of veterans. Whether a veteran is interested in beginning a farm, joining or transitioning an existing farming operation, or interested in growing their current farming operation, we at Farm Credit Association would like to help. It is our hope that you will share this information with those personnel transitioning out of military service or those already considered veterans who are looking for agriculture credit resources. We are happy to speak with individuals interested in one of our programs or individuals who are simply seeking additional information. Farm Credit Association Farmer Veteran Programs: [List] We look forward to serving as a resource to our veterans and look forward to working with you in this endeavor. Thank you for your service and dedication to our Nation. Sincerely,

12 12 Communicate: Reaching Out To Your Congressional Delegation Now that your association has decided exactly how you plan to participate in the Farm Veteran Coalition partnership, it is time to share your great work and make certain the veteran community is aware of the resources Farm Credit can provide! Reaching out to your congressional delegation is a good way to build a better relationship with the Members of Congress that represent your Farm Credit Association and your costumers. Congressional offices also tend to be a place that constituents go to for information and resources. Hundreds of veterans contact their congressional offices every year for assistance with the VA, SBA, GI Bill, and general information on opportunities specific for veterans. Arming your Member of Congress district office with information about what Farm Credit has to offer is helpful to both your association and the Member of Congress. Who to Contact: Every Member of Congress has a Washington D.C. office as well as at least one office in their home district. These district offices are the best place to relay local information. The district office staff usually consists of a District Director and several Field Representatives, Case Workers, and/or Constituent Services Representatives. Each office may utilize different titles for these individuals. In most cases, the district director is responsible for building relationships with community organizations and attending events and meetings in the Congressman s stead. The district director is a great person to invite to costumer meetings and other events your association may be holding. The case workers/constituent services representatives are responsible for assisting constituents in navigating federal programs. This includes everything from VA claims, to social security benefits to assistance in receiving FSA grants and loans. Each office will also most likely have a case worker/constituent services representative who is specifically responsible for assisting veterans. This is the individual whom returning veterans may be contacting for resources and information regarding employment opportunities and other benefits. This is the individual you will want to provide information regarding Farm Credit veteran programs. (Continued on page 13)

13 13 Communicate: (Continued from page 12) How to Reach Out: There are several ways to inform your local congressional office about your association s new initiative to help returning veterans find opportunities in the agriculture sector. First, you can find your Members of Congress and their district offices locations by visiting and looking up their website using zip codes. Once you know who your Representative is and where the offices are located, you can send a package of information to the district office including a cover letter explaining Farm Credit and your new initiatives as well as copies of the Farmer Veteran Coalition Resource Guide. You may also want to include additional materials regarding loan programs, etc. You may also want to contact the local congressional office to find out who in the office is responsible for assisting veterans and send that individual an or personalized letter. Finally, you may want to consider reaching out to this individual in person. District congressional staff meet with groups and constituents often. They are usually happy to set up meetings to discuss items related to their issue areas of expertise. Sometimes you can even catch up with these folks at local events hosted by the congressional office. Some district offices host annual veteran s information fairs, jobs fairs and veterans listening sessions. Checking the congressional website or calling the office will help you to keep track of when these events are held and whether it is an appropriate venue for the information your association has to offer. These events may present a great opportunity for your association to engage with the congressional office and share information about what your association can offer to veterans. Questions: If you have questions or would like more information regarding congressional outreach, feel free to contact the Farm Credit Council at

14 14 Resources: Additional Resources: The Farm Credit Council s Website: Additional materials you can use, including photos and graphics, and success stories from around the Farm Credit System, will be available on The Farm Credit Council s website at Contact The Farm Credit Council: As your institution implements its outreach to service men and women, please feel free to contact Gary Matteson, Vice President Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Programs and Outreach, The Farm Credit Council, at or Gary currently serves as the Chairman of the Farmer Veteran Coalition Board of Directors. The Farmer Veteran Coalition: You can visit the Farmer Veteran Coalition s website at to find additional resources and information on the Coalition s other programs. You can also download additional copies of Veteran Careers in Agriculture: A Resource Guide, which provides a wealth of information geared toward recently separated service members including training opportunities and business planning. Download the guide at: uploads/2013/02/rg_final_web.pdf

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