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 James F. Helm of Fairbanks, Alaska, who served as a senior agricultural advisor in Diyala Province, Iraq, from 2009 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.
In Iraq, Helm helped develop a plan to assist internally displaced persons. This plan created jobs and promoted reconciliation among religious sects. He also helped establish a poultry farmers association and develop a business plan for a $2-million U.S. Agency for International Development grant. This project helped reduce the cost of feed by consolidating orders and developing economies of scale, which improved feed quality and poultry health. Helm is a retired resource conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Fairbanks, Alaska. He received his Bachelor of Science degrees in resource development and crop and soils science from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
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