WASHINGTON, March 19, 2010—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) today announced that Travis Auxier, a district veterinary medical specialist with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in Atlanta, Ga., has returned from a one-year voluntary assignment in Iraq to help rebuild that country’s agricultural sector.
"The efforts of people like Travis are crucial for helping to create stable, democratic, and economically viable societies in countries like Iraq," said John D. Brewer, FAS Administrator. "Whether their expertise is in forestry, soil and water conservation, food safety, agricultural extension and policy, or veterinary services, volunteers like Travis are needed to contribute their specialized skills to help farmers, citizens, and the national and provincial government leaders of Iraq."
Since 2007, USDA has deployed staff to Iraq for long- and short-term assignments. Presently, more than 30 Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) agricultural or ministry experts are in Iraq. PRT experts work on a variety of projects depending on the needs of the province. All projects are aimed at helping Iraq reconstruct the physical and institutional infrastructure of its agricultural sector.
Auxier served as a USDA PRT agricultural expert on the Anbar PRT in Anbar Province. While in Iraq, Auxier boosted animal control efforts and improved sheep flock production by working with local officials and veterinarians, and helped establish a poultry disease diagnostic laboratory and training seminars for farmers and veterinarians. Born in Springfield, Ohio, and raised in Paintsville, Ky., Auxier currently lives in Lawrenceville, Ga. He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Ala.
In Iraq, PRTs are led by the U.S. Department of State and are typically composed of about 50-100 military personnel and several civilians. The PRT agricultural expert is one of only a few civilians on the PRT; the others are State Department representatives and U.S. Agency for International Development field program officers.
In addition to PRTs, USDA has many activities and programs aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Iraqi government, rebuilding agricultural markets, and improving management of natural resources. Last year, more than 60 Iraqi government and university officials received advanced train-the-trainer agricultural extension education at five U.S. land-grant universities on subjects such as water resource management and soil analysis under the Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project (IAER).
Programs such as USDA’s Cochran Fellowship Program and the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program have brought more than 60 Iraqis to the United States for short-term specialized training since 2005. These public and private sector policymakers, scientists, and veterinarians have upgraded their technical skills in a wide range of topics including techniques to control animal diseases, agricultural policy planning and budget management, and research in water resources, waste-water recycling, and irrigation.
USDA has also used the Food for Progress (FFPr) Program to provide food assistance to Iraq. The FFPr program supports agricultural and economic development projects in developing countries that are emerging democracies and are introducing or expanding free enterprise in their agricultural sectors. In 2005, USDA implemented an FFPr program in Iraq through the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) with a total value of $10.8 million. The funds were used to provide educational programs to members of the newly formed Iraq Poultry Producers Association, Iraqi bankers, and Iraqi poultry producers and to establish the Iraq Poultry Fund, which provides credit guarantees to participating banks so Iraqi importers can fund purchases of imported grains and other commodities related to the poultry industry. In early May, the USGC will hold a seminar in Jordan to inform more Iraqi importers and banks about the Iraq Poultry Fund to encourage use of the program.
For more information about volunteering to serve on a PRT, please go to http://jobsearch.usajobs.gov/agency.aspx and select Foreign Agricultural Service. General information about USDA’s programs and activities in Iraq can be found at http://www.fas.usda.gov/country/iraq/development/iraq.asp
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Linda Habenstreit (202) 720-9442