USDA diverts funds from veterans program

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, joined colleagues in demanding an explanation and answers after learning that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is diverting funds from a program that supports producers from diverse backgrounds — including farmers who are veterans.

In a bicameral letter to the USDA — which was joined by nearly 40 senators — Merkley and his colleagues said that the decision to divert funds from the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program was made without a thorough process for input and consultation from lawmakers, stakeholders and the communities of color and veterans that they serve.

“During this difficult time, farmers across the U.S. face unprecedented challenges in keeping their farms afloat and their livelihoods intact,” the lawmakers wrote. “For many producers, the impacts of this current crisis are compounded by years of depressed prices, volatile markets and historic levels of farm debt. We are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s most underserved farmers who often have the fewest resources to draw on and who most need our support in these challenging times.”