Former President George W. Bush will be the keynote speaker Feb. 15, 2012 during World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., at the kickoff of a fundraising event to launch a unique program to enfold returning veterans into the agricultural industry.

The International Agri-Center will partner with California State University, Fresno and College of the Sequoias in Tulare County to provide training for returning veterans in careers in agriculture. The program is an in-residence course which will include class work, field work, exam preparation, testing, mentorship and internships-all designed to expose returning veterans to the broader aspects of the agriculture industry and to help them gain access to rewarding careers.

"We are committed to train and place veterans with both an interest in, and an aptitude for the agriculture industry," said Stacey Beachy, director of corporate partnerships for the International Agri-Center. "The program identifies with the challenges of recently returned veterans who face difficulties starting new careers-we believe the agricultural community is well suited to provide jobs to returning service-members."

The Feb. 15 event, which will also include a military musical performance, will be the official launch of the International Agri-Center's Ag Warriors program.

"We continue to be the industry leader by not resting on our laurels and by breaking the mold," said Jerry Sinift, chief executive officer of the International Agri-Center. "At World Ag Expo 2012, we'll continue to show our pioneering spirit by launching the Ag Warriors program to benefit returning veterans."

The International Agri-Center will raise funds to facilitate the necessary training and certification for returning veterans to enter the industry.

The International Agri-Center is soliciting financial sponsorship for the Feb. 15 event as well as the Ag Warriors ongoing program.

Sinift said as the Ag Warriors program was developed, the International Agri-Center has received strong support from the California agricultural community and veterans organizations.

“We have also received calls from agriculturists in other states saying they would welcome trained veterans from the Ag Warriors program,” Sinift said.

There is a growing need to bring young people into the agricultural industry. Ag Warriors is an example of not only filling that need, but to re-integrate return veterans into society after they have served and to provide career opportunities for them, according to Sinift.

Frederic Foster, International Agri-Center chief financial officer, noted World Ag Expo has stepped up its commitment to attracting young people to ag careers by hosting a large event for FFA members and by supporting FFA with a Toyota truck raffle each year with all the proceeds going to FFA.

For more information, or to make reservations for the Ag Warriors Gala, visit www.AgWarriors.com or call 800-999-9186.