When it comes to honoring our agricultural heroes, thank you is not enough

Farm Forum

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the country, hands down. As Under Secretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, I get to meet with – and talk to – farmers and ranchers across America every day. These hard working men and women, and their families are the backbone of U.S. agriculture. Their dedication and commitment inspire me.

It’s an honor to be able to service these agricultural heroes through the programs we offer at the Farm Service Agency (FSA). When severe weather devastates our nation’s cropland, FSA is there helping producers recover.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and Missouri as part of our disaster assistance sign-up effort. Now, thanks to the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, we’re able to offer help to producers who have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action. Working with local farmers and ranchers coming in to sign-up, I heard a lot of stories that demonstrated the tenacity and pride of each producer and their family. I wasn’t surprised.

For the past few weeks, we shared some of their stories. Like Kim and Jeff Essig of Kentucky, family farmers who were able to expand their blueberry operation with USDA Microloan. Or beginning farmers — and brothers — William and Thomas Anderson of South Carolina, who used a Microloan to purchase a grain bin after local and commercial lenders wouldn’t take a chance on two young farmers. They join thousands of men and women across the U.S. who are taking steps to launch farming operations or expand their current operation with the help of USDA’s Microloan program. The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay.

FSA’s Microloan and disaster assistance programs are just two of many services that we offer the men and women, and families who provide food, fiber and fuel to millions of Americans and billions of people around the world. In many ways, they are the lifeline for the growth and success of the American people.

And while it’s not enough, it is important to say thank you to our country’s farmers and ranchers — large and small. Thank you . . . for all that you do.