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USDA Offers More than Employment Opportunities for Veterans

Posted by David Dissinger, USDA’s Veterans Employment Program Manager in Rural
Feb 21, 2017
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks to the American Legion prior to signing  a memorandum of understanding with the American Legion which will help our Nation's veterans and transitioning military service members find positions that promote agriculture, animal and plant health, food safety, nutrition, conservation and rural communities at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday February 28, 2012.   USDA Photo by Johnny Bivera.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks to the American Legion prior to signing a memorandum of understanding with the American Legion which will help our Nation's veterans and transitioning military service members find positions that promote agriculture, animal and plant health, food safety, nutrition, conservation and rural communities at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday February 28, 2012. USDA Photo by Johnny Bivera.

Today about 6.1 million of America’s veterans live in rural communities. About 38 percent of military recruits call rural America home, but these communities face real economic challenges.  So over the past two years – at President Obama’s direction – USDA and the rest of the federal government have taken historic action to support rural economies.

At the same time, USDA has worked to increase our rate of hiring veterans and disabled veterans each year.  At the end of Fiscal Year 2011, nearly a quarter of USDA’s permanent hires were veterans.

Veterans are leaders in their communities and we want to help them pursue their goals.  So today, Secretary Vilsack signed a Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and The American Legion at The American Legion’s Washington Conference. The Legion is the Nation’s largest veterans service organization and has long been committed to helping transitioning military and America's veterans find jobs.

We will work with the Legion to increase outreach, recruitment, hiring, and retention of veterans and to ensure that veterans across America – and especially in rural America – are well informed about USDA programs like our through Farm Service Agency loans that can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed and supplies.  The agency provides direct and guaranteed loans to beginning farmers and ranchers. USDA also provides homeownership opportunities to low-and moderate-income rural Americans and business loans, grant and loan guarantees for rural communities under our Rural Development mission area.

At USDA, we recognized that there was a knowledge gap between service members who were looking to start a business, farm or ranch and our programs, grants, loans or small business contracts that are available.  As a result of this MOU, we will provide information to all 14,000 American Legion posts and at all Transition Assistance Program offices, so that our men and women returning from service will learn about our programs when transitioning back into their communities.

Legion posts are often the hub of a rural community. One-third of its membership and over 5,300 posts are located in counties with populations under 40,000.  We have about 450 USDA Rural Development offices and more than 2,100 Farm Service Agency offices in counties throughout the country.  USDA operates through a field structure, much like the Legion.  For us, this MOU was a natural fit.

Through creative partnerships like the one we announced today, USDA program managers will have an opportunity to leverage the Legion’s efforts and visibility in rural communities to market our programs to transitioning service members and veterans.   We will encourage veterans to take a look at the opportunities and support we offer and encourage them to get into the field of agriculture through programs like .  The American farmer is aging, 30% of farmers are 65 years or older.  New farmers are essential to our nation’s national, food and economic security.

Category/Topic: Rural

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james mathews
Feb 29, 2012

Sounds good

Scott H. Barkalow
Feb 29, 2012

Wow!! It's programs like this that make our troops feel much better as they transition back into the civilian world. Programs like these make me proud to be associated with all three of these organizations!!

Mar 01, 2012

I quickly learned this past weekend that the 2012 Farm Bill deliberations aren’t just being watched by folks who live in rural America. A conference in New York City last week demonstrated that many people in our nation’s largest city are also following the Farm Bill reauthorization discussions closely.

Monshi R. Ramdass
Mar 01, 2012

Great Job USDA and David Dissinger for creating a model Veteran'a Employment Program.

Nic Afshartoos
Mar 08, 2012

We owe them a lot, and I hope other Government agencies follow suit.
Being able to get a job fast will ease their stress, and hopefully helps them to adjust to civilian life quickly.
Some of these people had a very successful life before being deployed, so it is time to show our appreciations.


Jeff Knutson
Mar 09, 2012

Dear Mr. Secretary Vilsack,

I am a veteran, (USMC 1986-1992), I recently tried to get a beginning farmer loan and was denied. The rules are very prohibitive for vetrans. The rule states that you had to have been farming for the last three years but not more than ten years. How is this a beginning farmer if you have to have been farming for three years? Now I would understand that if I had no farming experience, training, or education that I might be a big risk for failure. I grew up on a farm, I have a B.S. in Crop Science from Washington State University with a minor in soil science, I have been providing technical assistance to farmers as a Soil Conservationist with the NRCS for the last nine years. I feel that this is a failed policy and does not allow returning vets the opportunity to take advantage of the beginning farmer program. It seems that government often relies too much on regulation and not on common sense.
Jeff Knutson

Joseph Hastings
Mar 09, 2012

I am a 52 year old Disabled Veteran at 30%: But I have found savior discrimination in the work place and when I tried to help resolve the issues, my efforts caused retaliation by management. I have been forced to hire a lawyer and request an EEO ADR just so I can show the evidence of discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment. You have made a great effort here but when you hire a military veteran the hiring manager must understand Integrity is ingrained in our leadership experiences and yes I must admit we can be challenging at time, but we are loyal to the cause.

Fred Lusebrink
Jun 20, 2012

Greetings to all

Recently I called, made an appointment, and visited my county regional USDA FSA office in Effingham, Kansas. I was there to begin the process of requesting a long term low intrest loan through the "USDA Start 2 Farm Program".

After introductions were made I was asked to and then proceeded outlining my purpose of a loan, rough draft, and my conception of a realistic plan of small ranch operations.
I presented my reasoning and motivations for seeking loans from the USDA in order to start operations on acreage I own suitable for this.

My request and future plans were politely an intently listned to by a very technically proficent employee. I felt I had answerd all of his questions satisfactorily and sketched a rough draft of a layout for outbuildings, pens, pasture and feed lot for a small herd of hefer-calf mix with several steer.

The interviewer proceeded to inform me of some skills I should more closely consider such as: ability to sustain and make profits over the long run, birthing, disease, financial management and cost predictions, expenses, familiarity of breeds and characteristics, fluctuations in beef prices, etc. etc. He left few stones uncoverd and certainly too many to write here. If anything the gentelman was very through. The interviewer stated he was not wholly optimistic I had the knowledge or ability to successfully run a small cattle operation at present or that a loan could be approved.
I was disapointed and frankly a little ticked off. The immediate result, my ears filled with wax and I became unable to hear any further than what I wanted to hear. I will touch on this in a later paragraph

I began articulating very clearly my thoughts on his earlier comments. My first shot over the bow was subtle and a cheap shot to boot. At first I wasn't sure the interveiwer had heard it as there was no response? I fired a larger 2nd volley for effect so there would be no doubt of my intent. The 2nd volley had it's affect and was quickly answerd back shot for shot. The meeting morphed into a full scale long range artillery duel at sea.

Apparently all the intellectual concussions from the blasts knocked the wax out of my ears...besides my repeating "I want a new tractor, and cattle ain't rocket science" was having little effect at such long range ha!

Eric proceeded outlining to a hard headed German the requirements which normally have to be met for approval of these loans. From simple paper records to those more complex and time consuming in order the request be given serious consideration. He mentioned my plans were realistic and could succeed under certain favorable conditions. We coverd the application per batem. Advice and methods on ways to meet the requirements were freely given. After 65 minutes I left the man at peace and a clear understanding of requirements for a loan.
I additionally aquired a new skill called "USDA Loan Chinese Arithmatic" not for the feint of heart.

Please note; In my opionon the current USDA loan application FSA2001-2038 requires knowledge of Latin, Klingon,and use of an abacus. Truck loans are 3 pages, home mortgages average 15, the application resembles a 38 page lemon. On second thought it's a 38 page peanut gallery puzzle palace, accompanied with clowns and puppets. Delete, trash, recycle, get rid of, and start from scratch in creating an easier form.

Eric thank you for spending way to much time on me and for you patience "capacity for enduring pain or trying situations; to tolerate delay". When I get all my ducks lined up I'll be back for trying again for my new John Deer Tractor and my nice check to buy them lovely cattle a waitin for me there in Holton Town, wee haa! gotcha Eric.


You big time Executive Level GS-16's folks there at the secret USDA Headquarters money printing plant. I got a contrite and humble request from a peasent down below here in the Stranger Creek Bottoms. Please remember the USDA's stated intent and also the legaslative intent of Start 2 Farm is "For those with little to no farming experience and or the inability to secure private financing". I'm not real bright but my gut feeling is that down in the trenches at county and regional office these loans just ain't a happening and or gettin "us little folk farmin".

Don't smell like it's because the county offices don't want to see me spending money locally, Atchison County needs local money and folks know it. So why are these Loans which will be REPAID BY BORROWER with intrest, taxes paid to local/state/federal, nice shiny things bought locally, property taxes paid, blah blah blah etc. etc. why are they not being in any meaningful numbers?
Is there a big dart board in the USDA break room with yes, no, maybe, and you gotta be kidding?
I'm bustin loose so hang on!give me the stage and center light please ahum...

Ladies and gentelmen our President and Commander in Cheif Barak Obama and his right hand man Vice President "Smoke Stack" Joe Biden are trying to keep this country from floatin down the creek without a paddle. These programs are put in motion by pretty smart folks who know " cash in one hand out the other" gotta keep people working, saving, buying dreaming, leave the kids something to build on, you know we used to call it the American Dream. All dramatics aside I support the Presedint and his policy's and dang skippy I'm voting for him and my man Joe even if the creek rises...and I'm a Republican! go figure?
Grant these loans, they are not grants nor welfare. These loans are investments in people and in institutions. I'ts bad out here man I mean bad! I see poor white folks, black folks, Mexican folks stuggling all around me. I'm 49 and retired, drawing a decent government check (one I earned by being rocketed, nearly blown to bits by freind and foe alike thrice) and 5 overseas tours away from family. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I can sit around and get fat, lazy, or both. How ever I want to farm and so do alot of other little people. I got 20 more good years left in me, 20 years making and spending money, paying taxes and then paying some more taxes. 50-60 thousand today won't just change my lifestyle it will change my childrens and their childrens. Loosen up on the purse strings we all know Uncle gonna get his money back if you act a fool. Pump some urgency and emotion into this program, if it's for real then do the deal!

God Bless the United States of America!

Man I'm so wound up I just might pop-a-top on a cool one and hang my National Colors to wave in the Kansas wind. Yeehaa!

Sapper Lusebrink signing out
Stay tuned fellow wanna be cowboys...

Janet Herbes
Jan 08, 2013

Why can't the USDA, VA, and lenders all be on the same page? My husband is a veteran with 30% disability and we have been trying to buy a farm but have been run through the ringer by everyone. What are the VA benefits for if you cannot use them on what a place you would like to retire on and continue living.