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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces that USDA and Defense Department will Partner to Support Military Children and Families

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 – Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will partner with the Department of Defense to form the Extension-Military Partnership, which will bring the extension expertise of land-grant universities to military family support programs.  USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Rajiv Shah made the announcement today at the National Leadership Summit on Military Families.

“Military families face many challenges as a result of their commitment to our country, and USDA recognizes this significant sacrifice and believes very strongly that Cooperative Extension can play a critical role in supporting these families,” Shah said. “This new partnership will enhance our 20-year relationship with the Defense Department and extend the many resources of the Cooperative Extension Service to serve the entire military community.”

The partnership will focus on three overall areas: community capacity building in support of military families, workforce development, and strengthening family, child care and youth development programs. 

The National Leadership Summit on Military Families was planned to start an ongoing conversation to transform family support and readiness programs and lead to more effective and productive ways for coordination in implementation.  More than 200 leaders who provide support to military families attended the summit over the past few days at the University of Maryland.  The summit was organized through collaboration between USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Military Community and Family Policy and the University of Maryland.  Participants included leadership within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, USDA, land-grant universities and non-governmental partners.

USDA has worked with DoD for 20 years, including partnership with all branches of the military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the National Guard & Reserve. USDA began the partnership by bringing the 4-H Youth Development Program to youth living on military bases throughout the world. In 2008, 24,000 youth participated in 4-H club programs on military bases and installations around the globe.  Additionally, Cooperative Extension faculty are working in partnership with bases and installations across the country to address critical needs of military families, including needs related to health, nutrition, financial management, family stress, etc.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  For more information, visit


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