The President is committed to supporting our nation’s Veterans, Reservists, and Military Families as they transition to civilian life. To that end, unprecedented inter-agency collaborative efforts and the Joining Forces initiative have made a difference. There has been a groundswell of support for Veterans from the federal government, private industry, local communities, and individuals. Federal agencies, much like private industry, recognize the talent, ethos and relentless perseverance found in amongst this community.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is setting a great example with its support of our Veterans, Reservists, and Military Families. Many people do not think of agriculture when they consider delivering meaningful services and opportunities to our military personnel. But a large proportion of service members and Veterans call rural America home. USDA works to support this community, with a host of successful programs that assist military families with training, education, and employment.
USDA has launched a special task force that is working hard to expand these programs, get the word out about them, and fulfill the needs of military families in new and meaningful ways. Technological advancements have changed the face of farming and ranching in America, and USDA recognizes that Veterans have the advanced skills and training to cultivate the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has collaborated with the Department of Defense and Military Services for more than 25 years to support military youth and families. Through the Extension Military Partnership, DoD provides financial support to promote workforce development, community capacity building, and strong child and family programs. The Military 4-H Club Program and Operation: Military Kids Program provide opportunities to military-connected youth, including Guard and Reserve, to help them build life skills through educational experiences.
USDA is also helping wounded warriors establish agricultural careers through the AgrAbility Program. This program funds services to farmers and ranchers with physical limitations, as well as those who need financial assistance to modify equipment or provide training to hire wounded warriors as farmers and ranchers.
Veterans Fire Corps is also putting our Veterans to work with collaboration between USDA’s Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Interior and various conservation corps. This initiative and the Veterans Green Jobs Program, funded by the U.S. Forest Service, build upon the knowledge, leadership, experience, and training of military Veterans, retraining them and refocusing their mission to protect our public lands from the threat of wildfire.
The USDA is striving to become a model employer of Veterans. These and many other efforts across the nation are keeping our military families strong, now and well into the future.
Rosye Cloud is Executive Director of the Performance Improvement Council and Member of the White House Task Force on Veterans and Military Families