USDA Requests Help to Strengthen Iraq Ag Infrastructure Agency offers up $7.8 million to land-grant institutions in a bid to bolster agricultural training. Published on: Sep 26, 2006 Tweet Post to Your Wall. Email Story RSS Permalink Print The USDA has issued a request for proposals from land-grant institutions to strengthen agricultural extension and training at Iraqi ag universities. Ag Secretary Mike Johanns says the agency is providing staff as needed in Iraq and is working to develop agricultural training there. "Because much of Iraq's population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, the country's stability partially depends upon the agricultural sector's performance," Johanns said, following a meeting Monday in Washington with Iraqi Trade Minister Abd al-Falah Al-Sudani. "A strong extension system that responds to the needs of farmers, processors, marketers and others in agriculture is a key element of recovery." The Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project (IAER) will provide extension training programs for Iraqi nationals. The training will enhance the agricultural management, production and marketing related to small and medium-sized production enterprises. The effort was launched on Aug. 1, when Johanns and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salamm Zukam Ali Al-Zawba'i signed a joint statement of intent in Baghdad. Training will be provided through partnerships built between U.S. land-grant universities and Iraqi agricultural universities in each of five governorates of Iraq. USDA is also boosting staff assigned to Iraq from two specialists to five. Two ag officers will work at the American Embassy in Baghdad and three technical advisers will work with the Iraq government. One will specialize in ag strategy planning, one in extension and education and the third in food safety and inspection. The aim is to assist Iraq in developing strategies to rebuild its ag sector.