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Honoring our Military Veterans Through USDA Programs to Support Their Goals

By Nayre Herrera, Pathways Student

Veteran FarmersThe Veterans Preference Program was established by Congress to acknowledge those who have served our country and, and as a result have suffered economic loss or, in some cases, have become disabled. The program provides veterans with an advantage in competing for a federal job by recognizing the value of the skills that they have acquired during their service.

“The skills that Veterans bring to our agency and for our customers add a lot of value to our Team of employees and diversity within,” said Curtis Elke, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Idaho. “I have found veterans to be very respectful of others, professional in character, loyal, and hard-working individuals.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers veterans hands-on job training, which is an excellent way to learn new skills and see if a job at the USDA or in agribusiness is the right fit. If you are a veteran looking for a new career, this program exists to support you!

In collaboration with the Department of Labor, the USDA offers two national-level apprenticeship programs that are available exclusively to veterans. These programs allow individuals to earn wages while providing exposure to a new career. One is with the Forest Service and the other is with the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Idaho NRCS’s  Veterans Emphasis Program (VEP)  is designed to focus on issues such as employment, promotion, training, and career enhancement within the agency. VEP also provides a network of professional support for veterans and provides information to all employees and keeps everyone informed of issues affecting veterans.

Veteran employees who are interested in self-development can find help through their state’s VEP manager, who advises the State Conservationist of the concerns of Veteran employees and actively participates in recruitment effortsVeteran Farmer.

The USDA and NRCS offer multiple services and special programs for veteran farmers. NRCS gives preference to eligible veteran farmers or ranchers who are applying for the different types of financial or technical assistance offered in the 2018 Farm Bill including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“Veteran farmers need to be provided the equal opportunity to participate in all Farm Bill programs. We want to make sure our veterans are never lost and forgotten. Sometimes they are very humble and do not to ask for assistance. I want to make sure all veteran farmers in Idaho are of the types of technical and financial assistance we have available for them and for all others alike.” Elke said.

NRCS is proud to serve and support our veteran employees and farmers through our programs and services.

It is our way of saying thank you for your sacrifices.