Monthly Archives: May 2014

Homegrown By Heroes Transcends Memorial Day

The Farmer Veteran Coalition recently announced the national launch of the Homegrown By Heroes initiative. The timing of the roll-out close to Memorial Day is terrific, as much of America is thinking about and honoring those have served our nation in the armed forces. But Homegrown By Heroes transcends Memorial Day.


The product labeling program will allow farmers, ranchers, fishermen and the like from all 50 states and U.S. territories who have served or are still serving in any branch of the U.S. military to use the logo on their food and farm products. Consumers and businesses will soon begin to see the logo at the point-of-purchase and on signage, enabling them to select products that support farmer veterans.

Mark and Denise Beyers are the first certified Homegrown By Heroes farmers outside of Kentucky, where the program was first started by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

The high school sweethearts entered the Marine Corps in 1998 and 1999, respectively. While serving in Iraq in 2005, Mark’s team hit an improvised explosive device, resulting in combat injuries that led to the loss of his right arm and right leg. Upon returning from service overseas, Mark and Denise built a thriving maple syrup business on their 15-acre property in upstate New York. The couple will use the Homegrown By Heroes label to help sell the maple syrup they produce on their farm as well as eggs and vegetables they will market in the summer.

“Farming and military service are more closely linked than one might think. Thousands of our service men and women leave the rural communities and farms they call home in order to serve our country in the military,” explains Michael O’Gorman, executive director of the FVC. “Upon completion of their service, they often return home to resume work on the family farm,” says O’Gorman.

The coalition also works with hundreds of veterans with no agriculture background who, upon returning from service, see opportunity in farming and ranching and decide to embark on a new career path in agriculture.

Another way to look at is that the veterans the coalition works with have served their country twice—once by defending it and now by feeding it. Only 16 percent of America’s population lives in rural areas, yet 40 percent of the men and women who serve in the U.S. military come from those same rural communities.

By supporting the label, consumers can help veterans who are serving our country in a new way–by producing the food and fiber that feeds and clothes us all. Thousands of young veterans are finding a new calling in a farming community with an average age of 58 years, according to the latest Census of Agriculture released by the Agriculture Department.

O’Gorman’s goal is to have up to 500 veterans using the label by the end of the year.

To qualify for the Homegrown By Heroes label, one must have served honorably or still be serving in any branch of the U.S. armed forces, and be at least 50 percent owner and/or operator of the farm business. Veterans of all eras are encouraged to apply. FVC staff assists applicants in developing food safety plans and, if needed, business plans.

Farm Credit, the nation’s largest network of farmer-owned agricultural lenders, supported the national launch with a donation of $250,000. The American Farm Bureau Federation and a wide array of other farm organizations also support the label.

This blog post originally appeared as a Focus on Agriculture column by Cyndie Sirekis, director of internal communications at AFBF.

Arkansas Dairy Supports Ditch the Rule

by Susan Anglin

After little rain in the month of April, mud puddles and water standing in the pastures and fields is a welcome sight. This has always been a very expected outcome after a good rain in Northwest Arkansas!

Anglin Dairy cows

Normal Arkansas weather outcomes could become costly if the Environmental Protection Agency, lovingly known as the EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) get their way in proposing the rule to change the definition of “waters of the U.S.” and expand the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Can you imagine needing a permit for a mud hole? Sounds silly, but under the proposed rule change, it’s not impossible. It goes deeper than just water–it would impact common farming practices that have existed for years. The rule change would make it more difficult for private landowners to farm and ranch, build homes or make changes to the land–even if the changes that landowners propose would benefit the environment.

Even if you live in the city, you can be affected by this rule change because cities and counties would be subject to new rules or standards that will increase the cost to citizens by requiring increased permitting of more ditches that will be more time-consuming and expensive for local and state governments.

You can learn more about the impact of this law change and how you can help oppose this law at Ditch the Rule.

We already follow rules enacted by the Clean Water Act and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and use best management practices that help us to protect our natural resources for our cows, our family and our community.

I support Ditching this Rule!


Susan Anglin is a dairy farmer and Farm Bureau member in Arkansas. Her blog is the Spotted Cow Review.

Navigate Common Sense and Ditch the Rule

A couple of weeks ago the rain started early one Sunday morning and did not let up until almost noon. It was a rain like we had not had in a long time (I am sorry for my drought-stricken friends, this may be a little hard to read). It was a great rain, it came down steadily and the dry ground really soaked it up. I believe (and it is only a guess since yours truly did not remember to take in his rain gauge last fall), that we received about three inches of rain.

Even though the rain came fairly slowly it still saturated the soil and because of that water started to run off. Soon there was a nice little stream running down the hillside by my house and down the road. The inner child in me wanted to put my boots on, grab a toy boat and float it down the very temporary stream. Then I realized that would be a very bad idea.

Sailboat ditch
Why would that be a bad idea? It would only prove that my little temporary stream was navigable on some level. The next logical question would be who cares? Well, apparently the EPA and the Corp of Engineers in all of their glorious wisdom and endless red tape care. Under a new proposed rule, the EPA and the Corp of Engineers would like to declare my little raging river of 15 minutes part of the “Waters of the U.S.”

Why is this a problem? This proposed new rule would declare almost every puddle, temporary stream, ditch, diversion or any other water hole part of the “Waters of the U.S.” and there is the problem. As part of the “Waters of the U.S.” almost every piece of land we farm or ranch would come under the regulation of the EPA and Corp of Engineers. Normal farming activities such as fence building, spraying and tillage could need a permit before they could be completed.

I don’t know about you, but I can only imagine the red tape and the waiting period that would come with any EPA or Corp of Engineers permit (not to mention cost). We all know what kind of time we have to wait around during the spring, the weather is usually nice and we have plenty of time to get things done. No, we are usually on a tight time frame in between weather systems and we cannot be delayed. Don’t overlook the fact that if we have to apply for a permit, it gives these two governmental agencies the ability to control how we farm and ranch.

In fairness, the EPA says that it will not bother us and that this rule is only meant to cover just a very few acres. Maybe they are telling the truth, but is this a chance you want to take? We live in a time when the increasing weight of federal government oversight makes it harder and harder to do our jobs and grow the food that even bureaucrats need. Another side of this issue that makes me just as nervous is the fact that the proposed new rule did not come down from Congress. This is something the EPA and the Corp of Engineers created to take more control away from local and state agencies. Our elected officials are almost powerless to change this rule. I don’t think this is how it is supposed to work.

We do have a chance to voice our opinions on this proposed new rule but the time is getting short.

We have until July 21 to go to the EPA and comment. Please, before you do this, do some research and make sure you have all the facts, don’t take my word, read the information and make up your own mind. Information is easy to find, and I am sure you have already heard and read quite a bit about this. Folks, if there was ever a time to take action, it is now.

Go to and make your voice heard!

I fear the noose of regulation will keep getting tighter and tighter and all of this in a time when we need to be more productive than we have ever been in agriculture. We know how to best care for the land and water we depend on and we need to be able to make those decisions on our own farms and in a timely manner. Let’s all let the EPA and Corps know that their boat just won’t float and to ditch the rule.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer. He previously served on the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee and is a graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL) program.