Agriculture serves as the foundation on which many countries build their economies. For Iraq, agriculture has traditionally been the second largest employer, after the oil sector. Agriculture is the second largest component of Iraq's GDP and an important part of the social structure of rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping Iraq revitalize its agricultural sector through a variety of activities.
Advisors. USDA maintains a permanent presence in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad through the assignment of two Foreign Service Officers. In addition, one USDA staff member serves as the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) liaison in Baghdad, five USDA staff serve as ministry advisors to the Government of Iraq, and one USDA staff member is an agricultural economics advisor to the Iraqi Government. Ministry advisors provide technical guidance and capacity building to the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant Ministries in the areas of agricultural extension, animal health and food safety, strategic planning, and soil and water management.
USDA has deployed 20 individuals to serve as advisers on PRTs. This year, USDA anticipates up to an additional 15 PRT agricultural advisors will be deployed to Iraq as part of President Bush's New Way Forward, with the possibility that up to 35 USDA PRT agriculture advisors will be in Iraq in 2008. All of the people deployed to Iraq have been USDA employees who have volunteered and were selected and trained for these assignments.
For PRTs, projects vary depending on the needs of the province. Projects have ranged from establishing farmer organizations and starting agricultural extension projects to managing natural resources; rebuilding institutional capacity to clean and maintain irrigation canals; and recreating veterinary infrastructure and ensuring animal health to developing food and animal production and marketing systems.
The Administration's fiscal year 2009 budget request includes $12.5 million in the USDA Office of the Secretary to help support the costs of participating in these activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The same request was made for the fiscal 2008 budget, but funding was not appropriated by Congress. Agricultural reconstruction and development are crucial for establishing stability in both of these countries, and USDA needs dedicated funding to have the resources to provide for its staff to play an effective role in achieving that goal.
Technical Assistance. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), in collaboration with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Colorado State University, provides technical assistance to strengthen Iraq's national animal health and disease control program. In October 2007, FAS sponsored a one-week planning session with 16 Iraqi government and private sector representatives to develop a national animal health program in line with international standards. The planning session was held in conjunction with the 9th conference of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Regional Commission for the Middle East in Damascus, Syria. FAS' technical assistance efforts facilitated the reintegration of Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture officials into this international standards-setting body and assisted in reestablishing key regional networks with technical counterparts in the Middle East region.
In January 2008, 94 Iraqis participated in an animal health disease control workshop hosted by the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture. The workshop resulted in the following:
Outlines of five disease plans for the Iraqi National Animal Health Program. The plans include goals, monitoring approaches, administrative structures, and responsibilities;
Iraq's Ministry of Agriculture and the Kurdistan region signed a memorandum of understanding to establish full collaboration on animal health activities across Iraq;
Seven veterinary colleges in Iraq signed a collaborative agreement to standardize the veterinary curriculum and to establish lines of research collaboration;
Linkages with the Swiss Tropical Medicine Institute with the potential to establish collaborative research in the animal health arena;
Linkages with Turkey's Ministry of Higher Education to train Iraqi faculty members in veterinary medicine; and
An outline of enhancing the buffalo-raising units in Iraq was developed in conjunction with the Iraqi Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Agriculture.
In September 2007, FAS awarded a two-year cooperative agreement to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) to assist the Iraqi Poultry Producers Association (IPPA) in creating a Center for Poultry Excellence in Iraq. This center will be a one-stop shop for the latest information on the Iraqi poultry industry. The FAS grant will support the following activities to establish the center: increasing staff within the IPPA; increasing the IPPA's capacity to provide valuable market information; and conducting 18 training seminars to share the latest technical information.
Trade-Capacity Building. The Cochran Fellowship Program (CFP) provides short-term training in the United States to help countries develop market-driven food systems and increase trade links with U.S. agribusinesses. In 2007, the CFP provided training to three Iraqi veterinarians in animal health and animal disease control techniques. Thus far in 2008, 12 Iraqis have participated in an agricultural statistics training program with USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service and Colorado State University. In addition, seven Iraqi extension agents participated in an agricultural extension program in conjunction with New Mexico State University.
The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program (BFP) provides six to eight weeks collaborative research training for entry-level scientists and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries. In 2008, the BFP for Iraq is expected to train about eight Iraqi scientists at U.S. land-grant universities and at USDA research laboratories in areas of water resources, waste water recycling, irrigation, drought monitoring, and animal health
Revitalization. By providing aid and assistance, USDA is helping Iraq revitalize its agricultural sector so it can become an engine for economic growth and strengthen U.S. market share.
In December 2006, the U.S. Department of State provided FAS with $7.8 million to undertake the implementation of the Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization (IAER) project in collaboration with the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), which is responsible for monitoring the execution of the IAER project by a consortium of U.S. land-grant universities. This project aims to support Iraq to restore, expand, and sustain a private-sector driven Iraqi agricultural sector.
The IAER seeks to re-energize the Iraqi extension system by building the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Iraq's major agricultural universities. Iraqis can then establish up-to-date extension research and training facilities and provide efficient agricultural extension services that will promote sustainable economic development for Iraqi farmers and rural communities.
From March 2007 through February 2008, IAER conducted 12 extension seminars including a few field demonstrations to 270 extension personnel of the Ministry of Agriculture and Iraqi university faculty. In addition, 13 training sessions for 500 more Iraqis will be conducted by September 30, 2008. The IAER project has five principal focal points: livestock production, field crop production and marketing, horticultural crop production, extension methodology, and irrigation and water resources management.
General information about FAS programs, resources, and services is available on the Internet at the FAS home page:http://www.fas.usda.gov