Secretary Calls on University Community to Encourage Employees to Serve as Agricultural Experts in Afghanistan and Iraq
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted a conference call with leaders from more than 70 of the country’s land-grant institutions on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 14, to request assistance in helping to rebuild the agricultural economies of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Secretary asked all of those on the line to “reach out to your respective university communities – the academic side, the research side and the extension side,” to encourage experienced and eligible employees to apply to serve as Agriculture Experts with USDA in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I’m asking folks today on this call to consider a very unique, important and somewhat difficult request,” said Vilsack, “and that is to assist the United States government’s efforts in helping to rebuild the agricultural economies of Afghanistan and Iraq.”
The Secretary added, “We’re looking for persons with technical skills in the areas of natural resource management and conservation, crop production, post-harvest management, animal husbandry, and extension.”
Since 2003, USDA has fielded agricultural experts to Afghanistan and Iraq to serve as extension agents within the civilian-military field units called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) operating in both countries. Currently, USDA has nearly 100 agricultural personnel serving in this capacity. While the majority of these individuals have volunteered for service from across USDA, others have come from land-grant institutions such as Colorado State University, the University of Florida, Florida A&M University, the University of Georgia, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska, The Ohio State University, and Oregon State University.
USDA is working alongside Iraqis and Afghans, as well as U.S. government civilian experts from the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies, to deliver high-impact assistance and bolster the agricultural sectors in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The people of Afghanistan and Iraq have long and storied histories as farmers and herders. Agriculture represents more than 80 percent of Afghanistan’s economy and more than 10 percent of Iraq’s. With regard to agricultural development in both countries, the U.S. government’s strategy is focused on long-term sustainability – increasing productivity on the farm, providing support for markets and utilization through post-harvest infrastructure, improving agricultural credit and enhancing infrastructure along the market chain.
The Secretary requested qualified and interested applicants to apply by Sept. 15 by visiting www.usajobs.com and entering the keywords “USDA Iraq” or “USDA Afghanistan.”