62 honored at USDA headquarters for their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently recognized the efforts of 62 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees who have helped revitalize the agricultural sectors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among those honored during a ceremony June 4 was Gary Hart of Sandia Park, N.M., who served as an agricultural advisor in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, from 2010 to 2011.
"I’m honored to recognize these brave and devoted men and women for their tremendous service to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," said Vilsack. "These USDA employees have played a vital role in furthering political and social stability throughout the world by building a foundation on which the economies of these countries will prosper."
USDA agricultural advisors began serving in Afghanistan in 2003 and Iraq in 2006. Their goal has been to help Afghanistan and Iraq rebuild their agricultural sectors by planning and implementing reconstruction and agricultural development projects. Activities vary depending on the needs of the area, but can range from mentoring local agricultural officials to improving food and animal production and marketing systems to veterinary infrastructure, soil and water conservation, and reclamation programs. Advisors working at the national government level help build the capacity of government ministries and collaborate with ministry staff to develop long-term strategies for agricultural development.
Among his many accomplishments in Afghanistan, Hart served as an important link between the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and various non-governmental organizations for the construction of the new Agriculture College at Nangarhar University. Hart is an epidemiology officer with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Albuquerque, N.M. Originally from Hilliard, Ohio, Hart received a Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus, with a major in agronomy. He went on to earn Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in soil science, as well as a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Since 2003, more than 250 USDA personnel have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 50 agricultural advisors are currently assigned there.
To learn more about USDA’s efforts in those countries, visit