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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture visits Ellsworth


The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Ellsworth for a familiarization tour and listening session, May 19, as his first military installation visit since his confirmation.

During his tour, and accompanied by South Dakota Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and Representative Kristi Noem, Perdue received a mission brief from the 28th Bomb Wing Commander Col. Gentry Boswell and toured a B-1 bomber. Both events provided an overview of the mission, organizations, capabilities and successes.

“I’ve been back to Robins [Air Force Base, Georgia] as a state senator and as governor many times…” Perdue said. “We used our military installations in Georgia as economic development tools. We wanted to make sure our military members were well served for their families and their communities.”

As a prior Air Force captain, Perdue understands the transitioning process service members and their families experience.  He was focused on sharing information about the USDA’s Veterans to Agriculture initiatives.

During a town hall at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, just outside the base, Perdue spoke on matters of entrepreneurship, employment and educational opportunities in the agriculture industry under the ‘Vets to Ag’ initiative. Perdue also opened the floor to questions and comments from audience members.

“What we understand is that [the industry] has become more technical, scientific and challenging, but the veterans who are separating come out with skillsets [in many areas],” Perdue said. “We want to help them understand that agriculture is a broad industry where we can use their talent.”

Within the USDA, professions include biology, infrastructure, communications and marketing. 

Prior to visiting Ellsworth, Perdue visited the Black Hills with Senators Thune and Rounds, and Rep. Noem for a listening session with tribal leaders and a tour of pine beetle-infested timber.

For veterans and transitioning service members, visit the USDA website where press releases will be posted, and a search using the key term ‘veterans’ will provide additional information about the program.