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Published:December 15th, 2006 03:18 EST
USDA Awards $5.3 Million for Iraq Extension Revitalization Project

USDA Awards $5.3 Million for Iraq Extension Revitalization Project

By SOP newswire

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2006 - Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that a team of U.S. universities will receive $5.3 million to strengthen agricultural extension and training at Iraqi universities.

"We believe that restoring Iraq's agricultural sector will contribute to overall stability in the country - and the extension system is a tremendous tool to help us achieve this goal," said Johanns. "I am very pleased to follow through on the commitment that this Administration made when I visited Iraq. I'm confident that this group of universities will represent our country very well. We can all be proud that our universities have so much to offer around the world."

Texas Cooperative Extension at Texas A&M University will lead a team that includes four other universities: Washington State University, Utah State University, University of California at Davis, and New Mexico State University. The partners plan to involve Prairie View A&M University, a historically black land-grant institution, and Dine College, a tribal college. The partnering Iraqi universities will be selected in the coming months and will include universities in all parts of Iraq.

The Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project (IAER) was announced on August 1 when Johanns and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salamm Zukam Ali Al-Zawba'i signed a joint statement of intent in Baghdad. Iraq's agricultural sector is the second largest contributor to the national economy and employs one-quarter of its workforce. In addition to the $5.3 million grant, another $2.5 million is designated for USDA staff, stationed in Iraq and Washington, who will be supporting this project.

The project will provide training programs for Iraqi nationals to enhance the management, production and marketing related to small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. The project will address arid crop production development, livestock production and animal health, and water resources management and irrigation technology. Priority activities will include training of extension specialists; long-term degree training; development of distance learning methods and instructional materials for train-the-trainer extension programs; and field trials, demonstration plots and lab methods for adoption by Iraqi farmers.

In addition to this project, USDA is increasing the number of staff assigned to Iraq. Two agricultural officers will continue to work at the American Embassy in Baghdad. Additionally, three technical advisers will work with the Iraqi Government.

The goal for these initiatives is to help Iraq develop strategies to rebuild and revitalize its agricultural and agribusiness sector. This initiative builds on other U.S. efforts over the past three years - including private sector development, livestock and crop improvement, market development and water management - to help Iraq rebuild its agriculture sector.