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Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans Work to Overcome Challenges

DOHA, Qatar – Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States met in Doha, Qatar, last week to commence the first Agricultural Trilateral meetings among the nations. The meetings focused on three areas: improving food security, water management, and trade corridors in the Central Asia region. All three areas, said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Burnham Philbrook, will help to increase economic opportunities for millions of Afghans and Pakistanis.

“I think we can all agree that meetings are nice, but progress is preferable,” said Philbrook. “We have come together here because we are serious about improving economic opportunities for Afghans and Pakistanis. And we recognize the historic nature of our responsibilities and seizing this opportunity while it lasts.”

The Agricultural Trilateral is meant to build relationships between Afghans and Pakistanis, and lead to plans that address improvements to each nation’s agricultural economy.

Nearly 50 representatives from the three countries participated in working sessions to develop action plans in each of the three areas. The action plans will address:

  • agriculture trade corridors along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate trans-border trade;
  • strengthening food security by reducing post-harvest loss and collaborating on research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products;
  • and improving water and watershed management and irrigation methods and rehabilitate watersheds to increase crop yields and create jobs.

Launched in May as part of President Barack Obama’s broader new strategy on global food security, the meetings are an important step toward improving some of the root causes of economic instability in the region as a whole. Plans will look at mitigating hunger, addressing job creation, water issues, and examining how to increase agricultural productivity and strengthen markets for the benefit of the region. When plans are complete, USDA will seek to complement strategies by offering collaborative opportunities in research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products.

“They [the United States] can facilitate our initiative, but our initiative has to be our initiative,” said Malik Zahoor Ahmad, Director General of Pakistan’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

“Only by agricultural reform can farm families climb out of poverty,” said Saleem Kunduzi, Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, “… can farmers stop planting narcotics … can more than a million young men throw away their guns and take up peaceful, honest, paying jobs. … Afghanistan and Pakistan need each other in solving problems.”

Deputy Undersecretary Philbrook

Deputy Under Secretary Philbrook delivers opening remarks at the first plenary meeting of the Agricultural Trilateral Working Groups.

Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

Left to Right - US, Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

USDA Reporting to You, and Looking Ahead

Today, the White House launched an interactive online feature with video reports from members of President Obama’s Cabinet.  In his message, Secretary Vilsack addresses the USDA’s accomplishments from 2009, and also talks about how we plan to make life better Americans in the year ahead. To see the Secretary’s statement, click here.

This week, we will be writing about the progress we have made to support agricultural producers, drive rural development, provide nutritious food for children, and much more.

Business Owners, Residents, Community Leaders Share Ideas on Creating Jobs in Greenville, South Carolina

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored a Presidential Roundtable Forum on job creation for South Carolina at the Greenville County Library in Greenville yesterday, bringing together community leaders to brainstorm solutions to high unemployment numbers and the impact on rural areas.

“This forum provides an opportunity to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities,” said Vernita F. Dore, state director of USDA Rural Development in South Carolina.  “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local communities. We need the best ideas to share with the Obama Administration.”

The roundtable included business owners, residents, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, educators and others interested in job creation and economic stability.

Dore said, “This is the fourth job forum that Rural Development has held in South Carolina and what we are finding is that people are very responsive and welcome the opportunity to take an active part in their future and the future of South Carolina by brainstorming together to come up with solutions. The rate of unemployment in South Carolina is currently 12.6 percent. That is unacceptable. The primary purpose of these forums is to find ways to put South Carolinians back to work.

“Furthermore,” Dore continued, “We are here, not only to listen to the leaders of rural communities and their ideas, but also to remind them that Rural Development has the resources to meet the needs of their communities.”

The Forum was sponsored by USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

Submitted by Marlous Black, South Carolina Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth

Hoosier Business Owners, Residents, and Community Leaders Share Ideas on Creating Jobs, Economic Growth

The United States Department of Agriculture hosted a roundtable on job creation and economic growth Friday at Indiana Farm Bureau in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.  Approximately 130 individuals attended the event aimed at exploring new ideas and solutions for a rapid economic recovery across Indiana rural communities along with plans to generate Hoosier jobs.

“The forum provided an opportunity for residents, business owners and community leaders across the state to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities,” Phil Lehmkuhler, USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director said.  “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local and community leaders.  I am anxious to forward the ideas presented today to the Administration.”

Indiana job forum attendees

Indiana job forum attendees

Joining USDA Rural Development as co-sponsors of the forum were USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Indiana Department of Agriculture, and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).

“Collaboration is key for a prosperous and robust agricultural industry in Indiana. The coalition of hosts for this roundtable discussion is indicative of the diverseness of the agricultural interests in our state. Indiana FSA programs are available every day to help provide resources to farmers during this extraordinary time of economic challenge. FSA proudly serves the American farmer and consumer, and offers programs ranging from conservation to commodity operations and from farm loans to biomass energy. FSA stands ready to assist whomever walks through our doors in rural Indiana,” said Julia A. Wickard, State Executive Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

“It’s important for the state and federal agencies to come together to collaborate on local economic growth.  NRCS is able to bring dollars into local communities through the conservation Farm Bill programs, including increased incentives to beginning and limited resource farmers.  We also have staff working on community development projects throughout the state in local Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) offices, which offer many opportunities for collaboration,” said NRCS State Conservationist Jane Hardisty.

“Rural Indiana faces unique challenges in today’s tough economy,” said David Terrell, Executive Director of the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.  “The roundtable was an opportunity to discuss creative ways to build economic capacity in our state’s rural communities.”

“I am excited to see discussion continuing to take place on improving and sustaining improvements in rural Indiana,” said Indiana Agriculture Director Joe Kelsay.  “Agriculture has been a cornerstone of Indiana’s economy throughout its history and will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s economic recovery and future.  Agriculture is a key player to bring jobs, capital investment and wealth to our communities through enhanced partnerships with businesses and citizens who share the same desire for Indiana to succeed.”

The roundtable included business owners, residents, state and local officials, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, and other interested parties.  Participants discussed steps that can to be taken to grow the economy and put Americans back to work.

The forum was moderated by Elaine Fischer of Ball State University’s Building Better Communities.

Submitted by Darrell J. Mowery

Public Information Coordinator

USDA Rural Development

Indiana State Office
To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth

About 120 Turn Out For a USDA Sponsored Jobs Forum in Ohio

Ohio’s difficult economic conditions, coupled with a genuine desire to create more statewide employment opportunities, prompted more than 120 Ohioans to participate in the state’s January 21, 2010 Jobs Forum. Read more »

Puerto Rico Community, Leaders Shares Ideas on Creating and Maintaining Jobs in Puerto Rico

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director, and Juan Ortiz, Farm Service Director, Sponsored a Presidential Roundtable Forum on job creation for Puerto Rico. The roundtable follows the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth that President Obama hosted at the White House on December 3, 2009.

Fifty-two persons joined together to work in creating jobs. The activity was covered by TV Channel 13 and Primera Hora Newspaper. The diversity of issues discussed was amazing and the group was composed of the best Professionals in their field.

The information provided from the discussion will be sent and provided to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and President Obama for consideration.

Job Forum Puerto RicoThe Honorable Lucy Arce, Senator of Puerto Rico, José Otero-García USDA RD State Director for Puerto Rico and Juan Ortiz, Farm Service Director at a jobs forum last week.

Submitted by Miguel A. Ramírez, Rural Development Public Affairs Coordinator for Puerto Rico.

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth