Dozens of USDA Civilian Experts Currently Serving in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2011 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced today that Michael Neruda, a senior policy advisor in Washington, D.C., is currently serving a one-year assignment in Afghanistan to help rebuild that country’s agricultural sector. Neruda is one of 56 USDA employees serving in Afghanistan. The growth of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, which employs more than 80 percent of its workforce, is a key piece of the U.S. government’s strategy to stabilize the country.
"The efforts of people like Mr. Neruda are crucial for creating a stable, democratic and economically viable Afghanistan," said FAS Administrator John Brewer. "Whether their expertise is in marketing, agricultural extension and policy, forestry, soil and water conservation, or veterinary services, volunteers like Mike are contributing their specialized skills to help Afghans rebuild their economy so that stability may take hold."
Most USDA employees deployed to Afghanistan since 2003 have served as agricultural experts within civilian-military units consisting of military force protection and civilians with expertise in agriculture, governance and other areas in need of attention. USDA agricultural experts work side by side with Afghans and U.S. government and international partners in 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 rural provinces. At the provincial and district levels, USDA agricultural experts train local government representatives and Afghan extension workers in plant and animal health, natural resources management, and improved cultivation and production methods.
USDA’s primary role in Afghanistan is helping to build capacity within the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) so that it may deliver vital services to Afghan citizens and farming families. USDA currently maintains up to 10 agricultural ministry experts within MAIL. In late 2010, USDA officials in Afghanistan announced implementation of a $38 million, multi-year effort meant to help MAIL expand its human resources and build administrative capacity.
Additional USDA employees working in Afghanistan serve as Foreign Service Officers and as members of the Interagency Provincial Affairs (IPA) section within the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the office that coordinates the civilian-military units deployed throughout the country.
Neruda, of Dorchester, Neb., currently resides in Bethesda, Md. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in general agriculture from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and a Master of Arts degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Formerly, Neruda served as a USDA agricultural expert in Iraq, where he led a variety of programs in collaboration with the U.S. military, the Department of State and Iraqi agricultural officials. Neruda served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and retired with the rank of captain. He received the Bronze Star for his service during Operation Desert Storm.
General information about USDA’s programs and activities in Afghanistan can be found at www.usda.gov/afghanistan.
Matt Herrick (202) 720-0551
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