There are approximately 200,000 active service members who will be receiving training and necessary resources to begin careers in agriculture as they transition out of the military.
This will mean trading in tanks for tractors, and their combat boots for rubber boots. This is all due to the agriculturally-focused career programs that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is creating.
The announcement was made last week by the USDA and the Department of Defense that agriculture is going to be one of the ways the government will provide career help to US service members as they finish their enlistment terms. The program is set to include both classroom instruction as well as registered internships at real working farms.
In addition to the training provided, the USDA will also be offering various financial assistance to the new farmers and ranchers who need help getting started with purchasing the necessary land, equipment, livestock, and other things that they will need to begin. Returning service members can also benefit from housing support programs. These can help with smaller problems such as repair costs or it can provide emergency housing support to veterans.
In a recent press release, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden stated, “This expanded collaboration between USDA and DOD will help to ensure that returning Service members know that there are a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance for veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture, no matter their experience level.”
The plan could benefit both veterans and the agriculture industry, which is dominated by a workforce that is aging and shrinking.
For those who were deployed in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, agriculture not only provides work but can be therapeutic too. Farming allows service members to perform purposeful work that provides food for the nation while working in a tranquil environment. With 5 million veterans living in rural areas, the program hopes to expand the rate of agricultural production to meet the needs of the country’s growing population.
The new program will build on federal efforts made to financially support vets who want to work in agriculture. Since 2009, the USDA has helped more than 6,482 veterans acquire farmland and farming equipment and maintain their operations by providing a total of $438 million in farm loans. Additionally, the USDA microloan program has provided more than $22 million to more than 1,000 veteran farmers.
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Featured Image Credit: FarmerVeteranCoalition