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State grants of up to $50G for farmers who are veterans

A new program aims to help military vets

A new program aims to help military vets expand agricultural operations, like this bird farm, with $15,000 to $50,000 each. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The state is giving grants of up to $50,000 to farmers who are veterans for the purchase of equipment, repair of buildings and other measures to boost production.

The Veterans Farmer Grant Fund was approved last week by the board of directors of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business aid group. The agency will administer the $250,000 fund.

Eligible veterans have until Jan. 26 to apply for grants of between $15,000 and $50,000. The fund was established by the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the 2016-17 state budget.

The grants are “for veterans who own farms in New York State to expand their farm operations,” said Christine Costopoulos, an ESD official.

Grants will not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of individual projects, which are to commence after Feb. 28, she said.

Applicants must own at least 50 percent of the farm, which must have had a minimum of $10,000 in sales last year. They also must provide proof of their military service.

More information is available by sending an email to nyveteransfarmfund@esd.ny.gov.

The state fund is the latest aid initiative for farmers who are veterans.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California-based group, offers grants to third parties who purchase equipment and supplies for veterans just starting out in farming or ranching. The coalition has awarded $1.2 million since it began in 2011.

Last month, the coalition opened a New York State chapter, led by retired Army Col. John Lemondes, who raises sheep and produces maple syrup and honey in upstate Jamestown.

ESD’s Costopoulos told the agency board last week that the new veterans grant fund is based on the state’s New Farmers Grant Fund, established four years ago to help young people pursue careers in agriculture.

The fund has allocated more than $2.4 million since 2014. Local grant recipients include Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard in Peconic and Cutchogue, Bhumi Farms in East Hampton, Browder’s Birds in Mattituck and Condzella Hops in Wading River.

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