WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) joined a bipartisan group of colleagues today in a meeting with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue focused on improving the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to recruit and train veteran farmers.
“Veterans and farming are a natural fit. As we’ve seen in Maine, these men and women return home from their service with the hard-work ethic, discipline, and drive they need to be successful on the farm. And as a generation of farmers heads toward retirement, our country needs their talent and energy,” Pingree said. “But more needs to be done to ensure that veterans know about agricultural opportunities and have the skills to capitalize on them. We believe that USDA already has the authority and resources it needs to strengthen its support of veteran farmers by improving existing programs and partnerships. I’m glad we had the chance to discuss this issue with Secretary Perdue directly and hope to see progress quickly.”
Pingree joined Representatives Mike Bost (R-IL), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Al Lawson (D-FL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Tim Walz (D-MN) at the meeting.
Specifically, the members requested that USDA look into opportunities for apprenticeships and on-the-job training within the agency; work with industry to support agricultural businesses looking to hire veterans; and better coordinate veteran farmers outreach with other federal agencies.
During the meeting, Pingree highlighted the work of Maine’s active veteran farmer community—which numbers over 300—as well as organizations in the state that are recruiting, training, and supporting them.
Secretary Perdue noted that farming is a therapeutic occupation, but that barriers for access to land are high these days. Secretary Perdue also indicated that a newly appointed Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison will begin working soon at USDA to help alleviate those barriers for veterans. Pingree invited both Secretary Perdue and the liaison to visit Maine and meet with veteran farmers.
Next Friday, January 19, Pingree is hosting a briefing in Washington D.C. that will focus on both supporting veteran farmers and reducing veterans’ food insecurity during the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill. One provision of legislation she introduced last year—the Local FARMS Act—would expand eligibility for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to include low-income military veterans.
—The Office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree
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