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 William Rhodes of Darlington, Md., who served as an agricultural advisor in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan, 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 Afghanistan, Rhodes helped Bamyan Province’s Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock build the capacity to administer national agricultural programs. He also helped start an Agriculture in the Classroom program in Bamyan Province and the District of Yakawlang for 4,000 students in more than 23 public and private schools, a horse breeders association in Yakawlang District to help villagers create wealth through the horse industry and a textile association in Bamyan Province to preserve the tradition of Persian carpet weaving and create wealth for women. Rhodes is an alternative energy business owner formerly with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington,
DC. Born in Richmond, Va., and raised in nearby Warsaw, Rhodes received a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, with a major in horticulture.
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