Legion, USDA team up to offer vets opportunities in agriculture
By BILL MURPHY JR. | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 28, 2012
WASHINGTON — Ever thought about being a farmer?
The American Legion and the U.S. Department of Agriculture think you ought to consider it — or else other careers in agriculture and related fields.
The two signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to work together, without spending additional money, to share information and promote opportunities for veterans.
The focus will be on making veterans aware of job opportunities within the USDA, programs designed to help them start businesses or farms, and contracting preferences for veteran-owned companies that want to do business with the department.
“A veteran is qualified for just about anything, as a great problem solver,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in announcing the agreement, but he added that he thought they could be especially qualified for farming and USDA opportunities. “They’re confronted with life-and-death decisions under great stress [and have] … highly technical experience.”
Many veterans already live in areas of the country where farming and similar fields account for a significant part of the economic opportunity. Roughly 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities, and the American Legion has about 5,300 posts in those communities.
Within government, the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security account for 80 percent of veterans hired, but Vilsack said the USDA is committed to hiring more veterans.
“When you look at USDA, we have an aging workforce,” he said. “Nearly 50 percent of our employees are at our near retirement within five to 10 years. Budgets are tight, but we have to hire. In the last two years we’ve hired 3,500 veterans.”