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Vilsack: New crop of farmers sought

By Staff | Oct 27, 2011

Chris Petersen, left, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, talks with Democratic congressional candidate Christie Vilsack Monday morning at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 in Fort Dodge. Vilsack talked about her plan to help people become farmers.

FORT DODGE – As Christie Vilsack has crisscrossed north central Iowa campaigning for the U.S. House of Representatives over the past few weeks, she’s witnessed farmers completing the annual harvest.

Vilsack came to Fort Dodge Monday morning to introduce a plan she believes will ensure that younger people, especially veterans, join the ranks of those farmers.

”We need to harvest a new crop of farmers,” the Democratic candidate told about 15 people at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856, 518 S. 29th St.

The plan she outlined includes a $1 million investment in new centers for training farmers and a handful of tax credits. The plan, called Fields of Opportunity, wouldn’t require any new federal spending, she said.

She described the program as an example of ”how government can help provide job opportunities to those who need them while revitalizing our economy and giving rural communities hope for the future.”

Vilsack said 40 percent of the country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are from rural America. She said that’s why her proposal puts emphasis on recruiting veterans to become farmers.

”It’s not enough to go sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ when they come back and have welcome home celebrations,” she said. ”We have to find meaningful work for them and make it available and tell them why they should come back to these smaller places.”

Vilsack is seeking to represent the new 4th Congressional District created by reapportionment following the 2010 census. That district includes Webster County and all of its neighboring counties. The Republican candidate in the race is U.S. Rep. Steve King, of Kiron. Part of King’s 5th Congressional District will be in the new Fourth District.

As part of her Fields of Opportunity program, Vilsack is proposing to take $1 million from an existing U.S. Department of Agriculture program and use it to create 10 Beginning Farmer and Ranch Centers at community colleges, small colleges or public universities. Those centers would provide training in agribusiness for those interested in becoming farmers and ranchers.

Vilsack said people who complete the training at those centers would get preference when applying for loans from the Farm Service Agency or the Small Business Administration.

Under Vilsack’s plan, anyone who leased farmland to someone who completed training at a Beginning Farmer and Ranch Center would receive a tax credit of $50 an acre for up to 160 acres.

An additional tax break would be given to people who sell farmland to someone just going into farming.

”Land owners will qualify for tax-free exchange when they sell land to a beginning farmer and reinvest in other assets,” she said. ”If the buyer is also a veteran, the seller would pay no tax on the sale ever.”

She said the proposal calls for the departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to work together to inform veterans about the opportunities to become farmers.

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or bshea@messengernews.net.

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