Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the American Legion National Commander Fang Wong signed a Memorandum of Understanding this week to help veterans and transitioning military service members find positions that promote agriculture, animal and plant health, food safety, nutrition, conservation and rural communities.
With this partnership, the USDA and the American Legion will leverage existing resources to expand opportunities for veterans while promoting USDA programs and services in communities throughout the country.
"At President Obama's direction, USDA and the rest of the federal government are working to make sure our veterans in rural areas receive the medical care, training and employment support they deserve," Sec. Vilsack said in a press release. "And that's why this partnership with the American Legion is so critical. America's veterans are leaders across rural America and we want to help them pursue their dreams by prioritizing innovative new approaches, attracting capital and forming partnerships like this to continue economic development in rural communities."
Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. Over 5,300 American Legion posts are located in counties with populations under 40,000 and one-third of the Legion's membership call rural America home.
The American Legion has long been committed to helping transitioning military and veterans find jobs. Through its vast networks, USDA will actively recruit veterans and transitioning military servicemen for employment while promoting greater awareness of USDA programs.
USDA also will provide information about the opportunities and support it offers, so that service members who want to start their own rural business, farm or ranch are aware of USDA programs, grants, loans or small business contracts.
USDA education, training, outreach and mentoring programs, such as www.START2FARM.gov will help encourage our Nation's young, hard-working veterans to be the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.
On November 9, 2009, President Obama signed executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government; and, as a result USDA created the Veterans Employment Program Office.
Through strategic recruiting and effective marketing of USDA to transitioning service members and veterans, USDA increased the percentage of veterans in the total workforce, including permanent and temporary positions, from five percent in fiscal year 2009 to six percent in fiscal 2010 to nearly eight percent in fiscal year 2011.