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lanon baccam

Proud to Serve My Country

When USDA recognized the men and women who served our country at the annual USDA Veterans Day Observance, it was a special day for me. That’s because the observance, held Oct. 27, 2016, was my first as a USDA employee since returning from a Navy individual augmentee deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan in December of 2015.  

It has been more than a year since I answered the call to mobilize. Saying goodbye to your family and friends is never easy. Leaving my job at USDA was not easy, either. But I have no regrets answering that call to duty because for me-- and for my fellow USDA employees who are still serving in the reserve or guard -- we have great support from family, friends, and coworkers.   

Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch

In honor of Veterans Day, Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam provided Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with an overview of USDA’s support for veterans. Baccam, a proud army veteran, also serves as the Department’s Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison.

A Conversation with USDA Leader Lanon Baccam

Lanon Baccam serves as the Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). Baccam oversees the domestic programs within FFAS, including Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. Baccam also serves as the USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Being an Army veteran, he connects veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture, providing information to returning veterans about services available to them through USDA.

This interview took place at Arlington National Cemetery, where scores of service men and women lay at rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.

USDA Helps Military Veterans Explore Agriculture as a Career

Before serving in my current role at USDA, I served eight years in the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard, including a 15-month mobilization and deployment as a combat engineer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During my tour, I saw firsthand the tremendous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who serve in our armed forces.

Those exact same skills can be an excellent fit for farming and ranching, which is why USDA is increasing its efforts to introduce agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day.

USDA Helps Military Veterans Answer the Question, "What's Next?"

Each year, nearly 200,000 servicemen and women separate from active duty in the United States military.  According to the Department of Defense, this results in approximately 1,300 new veterans and their families returning to civilian life every single day, numbers that are expected to increase in the coming years. While many returning troops have plans and objectives upon their return home, many others have challenges finding new jobs, identifying health care resources, or integrating their skills into new careers.

For veterans exploring the next step in their careers and lives, USDA stands ready to help.  With rural Americans comprising only 16 percent of our total population, but about 40 percent of our military, USDA believes that the enormous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who served in the U.S. military can have enormous benefit for farming and ranching.

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses.

Rural Veterans, Thank You for Your Service

Today is Veterans Day, and I’d like to take a moment to honor the men and women of our military. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security in order to keep us safe. America’s veterans embody the values that stand at the heart of rural America: hard work, a love of their country, and a sense of duty and sacrifice to give back to the land that has done so much for us all.

To the USDA employees who have served America in uniform, and to those who support family members and loved ones who serve, I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you. USDA’s staff across the country now includes more than 11,000 veterans. In recent years, we’ve expanded our commitment to bringing on board more former service members, participating in a wide variety of veterans’ hiring efforts coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. We’ve also created a USDA Veterans Employment Program office, through which any veteran who contacts us has access to counseling, career help, and consideration for employment.