Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that 10 additional USDA personnel will be dispatched to assist Iraq in revitalizing its agricultural sector.

"I am truly inspired by the hope and optimism that I witnessed in Iraq. The Iraqi leaders and producers are absolutely determined to overcome the hurdles in achieving self-sufficiency and a strong economy," says Johanns. "USDA stands ready to expand our assistance as we support and applaud the efforts in Iraq."

Four agricultural advisors from USDA will assist the Government of Iraq with the development of new agricultural policies and programs. Six additional USDA employees will be selected to participate in Provincial Reconstruction Teams that work at the local level in communities throughout Iraq.

While in Baghdad August 1, Johanns signed a joint statement of intent with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Salam Zukam Ali Al-Zawba'i to strengthen and broaden Iraq's agricultural extension system and universities through partnerships between U.S. and Iraqi universities.

Under USDA sponsorship, this program is designed to match U.S. colleges and universities with Iraqi agricultural universities to conduct joint agricultural projects and provide training for Iraqi faculty members. Possible areas of technical cooperation include production of wheat, barley, rice, fruits, vegetables, sheep and goats, animal health initiatives and water resources management.

This initiative builds on other U.S. efforts over the past three years to help Iraq rebuild its agriculture sector, which is the second largest contributor to the economy behind oil and it has the greatest potential to provide jobs in Iraq. These efforts include private sector development, livestock and crop improvement, market development and water management. USDA is providing training to Iraqis under a fellowship program that teaches market-driven food system principles, providing $10 million in food aid (Food for Progress agreement with U.S. Grains Council).

Overall, the U.S. Government has provided broad assistance, including projects such as the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure reaching nearly a half million rural Iraq residents, the availability of 31 tons of cleaned and treated wheat seed and the reconstruction of nearly 70 veterinary clinics serving more than 100-thousand Iraqi animal breeders.