Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and The American Legion National Commander Fang Wong Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding 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. With this partnership, USDA and the American Legion will leverage existing resources to expand opportunities for veterans while promoting USDA programs and services in communities throughout the country.
"At President Obama's direction, USDA and the rest of the federal government are working to make sure our veterans in rural areas receive the medical care, training and employment support they deserve," said Vilsack. "And that's why this partnership with the American Legion is so critical. America's veterans are leaders across rural America and we want to help them pursue their dreams by prioritizing innovative new approaches, attracting capital and forming partnerships like this to continue economic development in rural communities."
Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. Over 5,300 American Legion posts are located in counties with populations under 40,000 and one-third of the Legion's membership call rural America home.
The American Legion has long been committed to helping transitioning military and America's veterans find jobs and through its vast networks, USDA will actively recruit veterans and transitioning military servicemen for employment while promoting greater awareness of USDA programs.
Specifically, USDA and the American Legion have agreed to promote USDA vacancy announcements; share information about activities in newsletters; provide information about USDA programs and vacancies through established networks as well as the on the Web; and promote veteran owned business participation in USDA contracts.
USDA also will provide information about the opportunities and support it offers, so that service members who want to start their own rural business, farm or ranch are aware of USDA programs, grants, loans or small business contracts. USDA education, training, outreach and mentoring programs, such as www.START2FARM.gov will help encourage our Nation's young, hard-working veterans to be the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers.
On November 9, 2009, President Obama signed executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government; and, as a result USDA created the Veterans Employment Program Office. Through strategic recruiting and effective marketing of USDA to transitioning service members and veterans, USDA increased the percentage of veterans in the total workforce, including permanent and temporary positions, from 5% in fiscal year 2009 to six% in fiscal 2010 to nearly 8% in fiscal year 2011. Disabled veterans are a subset of veterans and are a subject of special emphasis in hiring. USDA increased disabled veteran hiring from just over 1% of total persons hired in fiscal year 2009 to nearly 2% in fiscal year 2010 to over 2% in fiscal year 2011.
Additionally, USDA increased its hiring of veterans in the permanent workforce from 17.5% in fiscal year 2009 to 20.3% in fiscal year 2010 to 23.9% in fiscal year 2011. Disabled veteran hiring for permanent positions also increased from nearly 6% in fiscal year 2009 to over 7% in fiscal year 2010 to over 8% in fiscal year 2011. According to data from the National Finance Center Report Center, as of February 19, 2012, USDA rate of hire of veterans in the total workforce is 12.8% and disabled veterans is just over 5%. The rate of veterans hired in the permanent workforce is 25.6% and disabled veterans is 12.2%.
USDA continues to make steady progress in hiring veterans in light of the strong competition it faces with career offerings at the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. According to the Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch report dated June 2011, DOD, VA and DHS account for 80% of the veterans hired in the Federal government in fiscal year 2010. In order to be more effective at hiring veterans, USDA can promote agricultural careers through veterans service organizations such as, the American Legion.