Agriculture is the second largest industry in Iraq and a new effort by USDA hopes to help the Iraqi people rebuild their agricultural industry, which was starved under the Hussein regime.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salam Zukam Ali Al-Zawba'i today a joint statement of intent to strengthen and broaden Iraq's agricultural extension system and universities through partnerships between U.S. and Iraqi universities.
Under U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsorship, this program is designed to match U.S. land grant colleges and universities with Iraqi agricultural universities to provide training for Iraqi faculty members on managing extension services and a variety of related subjects.
Possible areas of technical cooperation include production of wheat, barley, rice, fruits, vegetables, sheep and goats, animal health initiatives, and water resources management.
Johanns explains next to oil, agriculture is the second largest industry in Iraq. "Beyond a shadow of doubt [agriculture] has the greatest potential to boost the overall economy," he says adding that he saw a lot of optimism from Iraqis that this is true and feasible.
Although regions of the country are desert, there are fertile regions within the country. The partnership is hoped to provide research and equipment resources for Iraqi growth.
This initiative builds on other U.S. efforts over the past three years to help Iraq rebuild its agriculture sector. These efforts include private sector development, livestock and crop improvement, market development and water management.
While in Baghdad, Johanns is meeting with senior Iraqi officials, and with rice and poultry producers and traders.