Carrie Antlfinger/AP

USDA, American Legion reach out to veterans

Partnership aims increase hiring of returned troops.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Legion National Commander Fang Wong, as part of a new initiative to hire more veterans.

Leveraging both organizations’ resources, the partnership aims to expand job opportunities for transitioning veterans and promote U.S. Agriculture Department programs.

Specifically, the American Legion will share information about the department’s programs and vacancy announcements through its newsletters and website. Additionally, USDA will reach out to veterans with educational programs such as, which aims to assist new farmers and ranchers.

Agricultures also plans to use the partnership to raise the level of veteran hiring to compete with the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments. As of Feb 19, USDA had a 12.8 percent hiring rate for veterans in its overall workforce and 25.6 percent in its permanent workforce.

As announced earlier this month, Agriculture also will be a part of the Veterans Job Corps, a White House initiative that partners USDA and the Commerce and Interior departments with VA.

More than 6 million veterans live in rural areas and nearly a third of American Legion outposts are located in regions with populations of less than 40,000 people, a USDA press release noted.

"That's why this partnership with the American Legion is so critical,” Vilsack said in a statement. “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.”