WASHINGTON -- U.S. Reps. Mike Bost (R-IL) and Al Lawson (D-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday to make more United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) apprenticeships available to veterans. The Veterans' Agricultural Apprenticeship Act instructs the USDA to work with state departments of agriculture to identify farmers and ranchers eligible for a direct loan to train apprentice veterans. The loan would, in turn, be paid back to the USDA after the harvest season.
"Despite dysfunction in Washington, I'm still fighting for bipartisan, common-sense solutions to help our farmers and our veterans," said Bost. "Our bill helps our farmers and ranchers fill jobs and expand their operations while offering our veterans new skills and a potential career path after their service. For the past two years, Representative Lawson and I have sat right next to each other in the House Agriculture Committee. We both have rural economies in our districts and we both know there's no more dedicated workforce than our returning military men and women. I'm proud to carry this bill to give a hand up to our returning heroes."
"The 'Vets to Ag' bill helps to prioritize on-the-job training for our nation's veterans in the agricultural field once they leave active duty," said Lawson. "Agriculture is a major part of Florida's economy, and my district consists of the highest veteran population in the state. This initiative will provide our military personnel with hands-on experience, access to quality jobs and the opportunity to help feed America."
The average age for a farmer is now 58 and has been on the rise for 30 years, according to USDA data. This trend could be changed by encouraging veterans to enter the agriculture industry as nearly 45 percent of veterans come from rural America.