U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, paired up this week with an Illinois Republican on a proposal to help more veterans transition into farming and ranching.
Lawson and U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., who sits on both the House Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committees, introduced the “Veterans Agricultural Apprenticeship Act” on Thursday.
The proposal would ensure more veterans can take part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) apprenticeship program. The bill also makes the USDA work with state agriculture departments to find farmers and ranchers who can receive loans, which must be paid back to the USDA after the harvest season, to train veterans as apprentices.
Lawson, who was first elected to Congress last year, made the case for why the bill was important, pointing to USDA statistics showing that almost 45 percent of veterans are from rural areas and that the nation will need around 700,000 new farmers over the next twenty years.
“Our bill helps prioritize veterans by getting them the on-the-job training they need to be successful in farming,” Lawson said on Thursday. “This program also ensures that veterans have access to quality jobs when they return home, and helps to feed our country.”
“Our bipartisan bill provides a common-sense solution for helping our farmers and ranchers fill jobs and expand their operations, while offering our veterans new skills and a potential career path after their service,” said Bost. “Representative Lawson and I sit 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 right before Veterans Day to give a hand up to our returning heroes.”
Lawson and Bost have rounded up five other cosponsors for the bill which was sent to the House Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committees this week. So far, there is no companion bill over in the Senate.