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USDA Employee Richard Whitten Volunteers to Help Rebuild Afghanistan’s Agricultural Sector

    WASHINGTON, March 16, 2010 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) today announced that Richard Whitten, a relief veterinarian with USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service in Carrollton, Ga., recently volunteered to serve a 13-month assignment in Afghanistan to help rebuild that country’s agricultural sector. FAS expects the total number of agricultural staff in Afghanistan to be 64 by spring 2010.

    "The efforts of people like Richard Whitten are crucial for creating a stable, democratic and economically viable Afghanistan," said John Brewer, Administrator for FAS. "Whether their expertise is in veterinary services, soil and water conservation, food safety, agricultural extension and policy, or marketing, volunteers like Richard are contributing their specialized skills to help farmers, citizens and national and provincial government leaders of Afghanistan rebuild knowledge, institutional capacity and livelihoods. Together, we are providing the foundation on which the agricultural economy of the country can prosper and thrive and create political and social stability."

    In 2003, three USDA employees were among the first civilians to bring technical expertise as agricultural experts serving within civilian-military units composed of U.S. and coalition military personnel and civilians from such agencies as the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and USDA.

    Since 2003, USDA has deployed 100 people for medium- and long- term assignments in Afghanistan and allotted roughly $256 million in food aid to the country. Agricultural experts work instructively with Afghans through a variety of activities meant to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government, rebuild agricultural markets, and improve management of natural resources. USDA projects to-date have included installing windmills to pump water for irrigation and livestock, training veterinarians to detect and treat parasites, rehabilitating a university’s agricultural research laboratory, stabilizing eroded river banks and irrigation canals, developing post-harvest storage facilities, rehabilitating degraded orchards, mentoring provincial directors of agriculture to help them improve their services to farmers, and reforestation.

    Whitten also served as an agricultural advisor in Iraq from February 2008 through February 2009 on a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Anbar province. Born in New Orleans and raised in Eatonton, Ga., Whitten received a Bachelor of Science degree from North Georgia College in Dahlonega, with a major in biology. He went on to earn a Master of Science degree from the University of West Georgia (formerly West Georgia College) in Carrollton, also with a major in biology. From 1970 through 1972, Whitten served in the U.S. Army as a 2nd lieutenant. He went on to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala., as well as a Master of Business Administration degree from Emory University in Atlanta.

    In addition to agricultural experts, USDA also manages programs that train Afghan agricultural officials and professionals in the United States. USDA-led programs such as the Cochran Fellowship Program, the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program, and the Faculty Exchange Program have brought more than 50 Afghans to the United States since 2004 for specialized training lasting from two weeks to five months in duration. These public and private sector policymakers, scientists, and academics have upgraded their technical skills in a wide range of topics and then shared this knowledge with their students and colleagues in Afghanistan.

    General information about USDA’s programs and activities in Afghanistan can be found at



Matthew Herrick (202) 720-0551

PR 0062-10

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