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Posts tagged: Iraq

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Employees Overcome Risks to Contribute to Stability and Development in Iraq and Afghanistan

When you hear about two employees dedicating their time to an important issue such as this one, the least one can do is acknowledge the level of commitment and importance of the roles they play for the agency and USDA.

Dr. Jaroslaw Fabis, a Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer in Raleigh, North Carolina, volunteered in Maysan, a town near the Iranian border, from February to October 2009. Dr. Fabis joined the American Embassy in Iraq as an agriculture advisor for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) to contribute to the goal of stability and development of the Iraqi agricultural community. Part of the U.S. mission in Iraq is to strengthen this particular sector of the community to facilitate their economic autonomy and Dr. Fabis took time out of his regular duties to accomplish just that. As the first veterinarian to visit Maysan, Dr. Fabis worked closely with the Maysan Veterinary Hospital to improve livestock health and productivity.  He also trained 125 veterinarians and veterinary technicians and renovated the Amara City slaughterhouse. For his efforts, Dr. Fabis received letters of appreciation from the U.S. Embassy Agriculture Counselor, the Provincial Directory of Veterinary Hospital and Congressman Joseph Courtney of the Armed Services Committee. FSIS is extremely proud of his dedication, commitment and sacrifice in support of our country, the military and civilian operations in Iraq. Read more »

An Ag Expert Looks Back at Iraq and Afghanistan

Ryan Brewster served as an agricultural expert in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ryan Brewster served as an agricultural expert in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

This morning at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recognized the efforts of more than 20 USDA employees who served as civilian agricultural experts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The agricultural experts were part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to provide civilian assistance abroad to help promote long-term economic development. 

One of those agricultural experts, Ryan Brewster, served for nearly three years in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are his recollections: Read more »

First USDA Agribusiness Trade Mission to Iraq Arrives in Baghdad

By Dan Berman, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service

What comes to your mind when you think of Iraq? Like many, my perceptions were created by years of media reporting. On Saturday, I arrived in Baghdad in a Blackhawk helicopter, and am still processing my feelings of heartbreak and inspiration. Yesterday I was honored to open the first U.S. agribusiness trade mission to Iraq in more than 20 years. At the opening plenary session, nearly 20 U.S. companies and more than 150 Iraqi entrepreneurs and buyers were present, as well as U.S. and Iraqi government officials.  The U.S. companies on the mission are both large and small, representing commodity, consumer-ready food, and forest product industries, as well as agricultural input suppliers, including agricultural equipment and irrigation system manufacturers.

The purpose of this trade mission is simple: to increase U.S. agricultural exports to Iraq, promote joint ventures, and boost investment in Iraq’s developing agricultural sector. Over two days, U.S. and Iraqi producers, processors, buyers, traders, and investors will meet face-to-face in dozens of one-on-one meetings. In these meetings business will be conducted, ideas will be exchanged, and friendships will be forged. The courage and optimism of all the participants cannot be overstated. We hope this mission will be looked back on as a turning point in our relationship. As Ambassador Christopher Hill said in the opening address, we hope we will move from America being represented by General Petraeus and General Odierno, to General Foods and General Mills.

Agriculture is an important part of Iraq’s economy.  It is the country’s second largest economic sector, accounting for 9.6 percent of its gross domestic product and employing about 20 percent of its labor force. The country’s farmers produce wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton, livestock, and poultry.  But, with Iraq’s population expected to nearly double in the next 25 years, agricultural imports, including those produced by Iraqi farmers plus edible oils, pulses, and a variety of consumer-ready products, are needed to feed the country’s growing urban middle class and low-income consumers.  In addition, Iraq has vast natural resources and great potential to further boost agricultural productivity and output of a broad array of farm products. What it needs are agricultural inputs, such as seeds, feed, and machinery to put this potential to work. With greater access to inputs, Iraq’s agricultural sector can develop more quickly. The U.S. companies on this mission can meet these varied needs.

USDA’s strategy also reflects the Strategic Framework Agreement that the United States and Iraq signed in December 2008. That agreement outlines the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship and recognizes that building a prosperous and diversified economy in Iraq will be key to its stability and integration into the world economy.

I am someone who has worked for over 30 years to promote America’s agricultural exports all over the world. Nothing prepared me for what I have seen here and the spirit and resilience and spirit of the USDA and entire U.S. Government and military team working here in Iraq to give the people here a better chance to live the way anyone would want to, in security and freedom.

USDA Head of Delegation Dan Berman discussed the benefits of expanded agriculture trade with Iraqi TV at the June 8 kickoff for the U.S.-Iraq Agriculture Trade Mission in Baghdad.
USDA Head of Delegation Dan Berman discussed the benefits of expanded agriculture trade with Iraqi TV at the June 8 kickoff for the U.S.-Iraq Agriculture Trade Mission in Baghdad.

Ambassador Christopher R. Hill opened the U.S.-Iraq Agriculture Trade Mission for an audience of more than 175 U.S. and Iraqi farmers, business people and officials.  Minister of Trade Dr. Safaeddin Mohamed Safi, Senior Deputy Minister of Agriculture Dr. Subhi Al-Jumailly and USDA Head of Delegation Dan Berman also offered remarks at the opening ceremony.
Ambassador Christopher R. Hill opened the U.S.-Iraq Agriculture Trade Mission for an audience of more than 175 U.S. and Iraqi farmers, business people and officials.  Minister of Trade Dr. Safaeddin Mohamed Safi, Senior Deputy Minister of Agriculture Dr. Subhi Al-Jumailly and USDA Head of Delegation Dan Berman also offered remarks at the opening ceremony.

Vilsack honors USDA agricullture advisors home from Iraq, Afghanistan

This afternoon in Washington, Secretary Vilsack hosted a great reception and ceremony for USDA employees returning from year-long tours of duty on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is an honor for me to recognize these brave and devoted employees for their tremendous service to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the important role they played in furthering political and social stability throughout the world by building a foundation on which the economies of these countries will prosper,” said Vilsack. “With President Obama’s new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, USDA’s role in providing agricultural knowledge and expertise has become increasingly important. Whether in forestry, soil and water conservation, food safety, agricultural extension, or veterinary services, I hope the example provided by these brave men and women will inspire others to volunteer.” Secretary Vilsack thanks USDA agriculture advisors who served in Iraq and Afghanistan

Just before the ceremony, Bruce Dubee and Steve Berk, two advisors who were deployed in 2008 to Afghanistan shared some of their experience.

Dubee, a Natural Resources Conservation Service employee based in the Washington, D.C. headquarters office, was deployed as a soil specialist in Kunar province near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

“You have to figure [the work] out,” he said of his experience. (Both men were the first USDA staff working on their PRT, a group a civilian advisors escorted by U.S. and coalition military forces). “You look behind you, and there’s nobody, it’s you.”

Berk, a Farm Service Agency District Director in Florida before being deployed to Afghanistan’s Paktika province, worked largely in evaluation and project training — although both men agree their roles were very broad.

“We had to become politicians as well,” Berk said.

At times, both agreed the work could be “painfully slow,” and instability in the country could sometimes pose issues. “There’s nothing easy about working in Afghanistan,” said Dubee. Berk readily agreed.

But both noted the stark lack of development in the country, and how agricultural capacity building within Afghanistan will play a vital role in improving ordinary peoples’ quality of life.

“You come back and you really understand how good you have it,” Dubee said.

Both have considered returning to Afghanistan for second tours of duty, and USDA currently plans to increase the number of PRT advisors on the ground over the coming months.

Want to learn more? Along with the ceremony, USDA released a web site and video highlighting the efforts of advisors serving in Afghanistan.