USDA launches program to help military veterans become farmers

The U.S. government wants to help military veterans become farmers.         

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched a program to help America’s veterans transition from a military career to an agricultural one.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced The Vets in Agriculture Initiative to connect veterans across the country with jobs in the agriculture industry. Perdue, an Air Force veteran himself, recognized that the same strengths and skills used in national security operations could be translated to food security operations. He also said that hiring veterans in the USDA would enhance the agency’s mission to revitalize rural America.

“Secretary Perdue has been committed since he sworn in on April 25, 2017 to bringing prosperity to rural America” USDA spokeswoman Diane Cullo told Fox News.

The U.S. Census Bureau says roughly a quarter of veterans live in rural areas, making them prime candidates for the 2,100 county offices scattered throughout the country. The USDA strives to have a quarter of its workforce be veterans, and prioritizes hiring them, Cullo said.

One of the reasons veterans are also a prime target for the USDA is due to the fact agriculture is a developing and changing field. The demand for specialists in areas critical to the future of food supply is high and those qualified are low. Therefore, the USDA has set up loans, scholarships and other programs to help veterans secure an education in these specialties.

The initiative came from the 2014 Farm Bill, which designated veterans as a specific group among beginning farmers eligible for “agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training.” The bill came with little guidance on how to implement this, so Secretary Perdue sought to make these resources and opportunities more easily accessible to the veteran community.

Perdue also met with members of Congress this week to discuss more ways to make this program more attractive to veterans, and expand with new apprenticeships.