WASHINGTON, D.C. – As a founding member of the Senate’s bipartisan Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today took part in the caucus’ “Veterans and Agriculture Briefing” along with Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Iowa Senator also invited former Navy SEAL and Iowa bison farmer, Jathan Chicoine, to speak on the panel. Chicoine now serves as the Veterans Services Coordinator at Iowa State University and also raises bison on his family farm outside of Ames.
In her opening remarks Senator Ernst stressed the importance of initiatives that connect veterans to jobs in agriculture, “I have had a lot of veterans that have come to me and express interest in agricultural areas because of the connection between what they are doing in the service and the applicability of those skills when it comes to agriculture.” The Senator added that her goal for the event was to “highlight some of the wonderful initiatives that are out there connecting veterans to careers in agriculture.”
Mr. Chicoine noted that jobs in agriculture are particularly beneficial to veterans, "Many veterans find purpose in being a part of something larger than themselves. Agriculture seems to be a natural fit, as it allows many of us to continue serving society in meaningful ways."
Other panelists included Major General James Hoyer (Adjutant General, West Virginia National Guard), James McCormick (Director, West Virginia Veterans & Warriors Agriculture Project), and Lanon Baccam (Deputy Under Secretary, Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison).
In addition, panelists stressed that 40 percent of veterans come from rural America and often have trouble gaining access to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Administration hospitals, an issue of great concern to Senator Ernst. Last October, Senator Ernst introduced the Veterans E-Health Telemedicine Support Act (VETS Act) to improve health care access for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telemedicine services offered by the VA across state lines.