Making the Grader: USDA’s New Program Offers Veterans a Path into Agriculture


Agriculture is a sector with lots of job opportunities for veterans. In September 2016, Assistant Secretary Mike Michaud met veterans in Virginia putting high-tech hydroponics to use in agriculture as part of the Patriot Farmers of America program. Agriculture is a sector with lots of job opportunities for veterans. In September 2016, Assistant Secretary Mike Michaud met veterans in Virginia putting high-tech hydroponics to use in agriculture as part of the Patriot Farmers of America program.

 

Editor's note: The following guest post is author by Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary and Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison Lanon Baccam. You can view the original on the USDA website. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of veterans turning to agriculture for their post-service career. While many choose farming and ranching, others seek employment in the agriculture industry as well as federal service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture employs more than 11,000 veterans, and we’re looking to increase that number through a new apprenticeship program. The program, which is being launched this week by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in partnership with the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs, is a registered national apprenticeship that will grow a pool of talent for USDA. Although it is open to anyone interested in a career in agriculture, we are especially proud that it offers America’s veterans one more way to join our ranks. Apprentices in the program will receive 12 months of specialized training to become agricultural commodity graders, or ACGs. ACGs are mission-critical positions for USDA. They are the highly trained USDA team members across the country who perform quality grading and inspections of the foods and agricultural products that we purchase every day.

New apprentice, James Youngblood (center), of Omaha, Neb., is a retired Army staff sergeant who served for 23 years and saw duty in Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo. The former food service inspector said this program will help him strengthen his knowledge of commodities and bridge the gap from his military inspection knowledge to USDA specifications. Youngblood said he expects this program to have a significant impact on all agricultural commodity graders hired by USDA. USDA photo by Bob Nichols. New apprentice James Youngblood (center) of Omaha is a retired Army staff sergeant who served for 23 years. The former food service inspector said this program will help him strengthen his knowledge of commodities and bridge the gap from his military inspection knowledge to USDA specifications. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

 

Outside of the direct benefit to consumers, these apprentices and the other ACGs around the country help facilitate domestic and global commerce and are a vital part of USDA’s commitment to ensuring that the quality and wholesomeness of products meets buyers’ expectations. USDA worked hand-in-hand with the Labor Department to develop a comprehensive curriculum that will help build the next generation of USDA technical professionals and leaders. We also worked closely with VA to ensure that veterans in the program who were eligible were able to access their hard-earned benefits. Thoughtful and dedicated work by many employees in these three agencies shows our commitment to veterans at the USDA and federal level. We are committed to providing opportunities for American veterans, and this new program is another way for USDA to serve those who served our nation. Our new apprenticeship program will help them find opportunities in federal service. Our strong relationship with Hiring Our Heroes opens the agriculture industry and the thousands of high-skilled jobs to our veterans and we will continue to reach out to those who are interested in farming and ranching. Since 2009, our programs at USDA have provided more than $505 million in direct farm loans to help 7,416 veterans start, maintain or grow their farming operations. Learn more about the new apprenticeship program and other opportunities available at AMS.


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Comments

The is a beautiful thing! I have been interested in working in some aspect of agriculture but did not see a way I could get into the field. I have been involved with a CSA for a couple of years in Tonopah, Arizona. In my neighborhood there is a community garden. I have wanted to be involved but they wanted a commitment I could not make at the time which was about a year and a half ago. I now find myself unemployed so I am going to sign up for this opportunity right now!

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