Saturday, April 13, 2013

Veteran to Farmer Bill Wins Unanimous Support in Committee

Rep. Hickman’s bill to assist veterans in creating farming businesses won unanimous support from panel
AUGUSTA – Veterans would have access to a program that would assist them with starting their own farming businesses under legislation that won unanimous support from the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee last week.

Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, is the primary sponsor of the legislation. Legislators from both sides of the aisle are co-sponsoring the measure.  They are: lead co-sponsor Sen. Roger Sherman, R-Aroostook; and Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Somerset; Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade; Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta; Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais; Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland; Rep. Robert Saucier, D-Presque Isle; Rep. John Schneck, D-Bangor; and Rep. Stanley Short, D-Pittsfield.

“We need to cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders as part of our path toward prosperity,” said Hickman.  “One way we can do this is by developing viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.”

The bill would direct the University of Maine System, Kennebec Valley Community College, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and the Department of Veterans and Emergency Management to design a pilot program for a postsecondary education certificate program that will enable U.S. military veterans to develop necessary skills in farming.  The program would address the difficulties some veterans face in transitioning back to civilian life after military service.  The ultimate goal of this program is to enable veterans to create new agricultural businesses. 

John Harker and Stephanie Gilbert of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry wrote in support of the concept to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

“We agree and recognize the success of the GI Bill and what it does to assist those who have returned from keeping our country safe. We also believe that agriculture can be a successful occupation for many Maine families who have the passion and interest in farming as a part-time or full-time profession,” they wrote.

The bill received unanimous support from the committee and will go to the full Legislature for a vote in the coming weeks. 

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