WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2009—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) today announced that David Greaser, the Farm Service Agency County Executive Director for Huntingdon/Blair Counties in Huntingdon, Penn., has returned from a one-year voluntary assignment in Iraq to help rebuild that country’s agricultural sector.
"The efforts of people like David are crucial for creating stable, democratic, and economically viable societies in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq," said FAS Administrator Michael Michener. "Whether their expertise is in forestry, soil and water conservation, food safety, agricultural extension and policy, or veterinary services, volunteers like Dave are needed to contribute their specialized skills to help farmers, citizens, and national and provincial government leaders of these two countries."
Since 2003, USDA has deployed staff to Iraq for long- and short-term assignments. This year, USDA will fill 33 Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) agricultural advisor positions in Iraq. PRT advisors 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.
Greaser served as a USDA PRT agricultural advisor on the Baghdad embedded PRT-Northeast, located 20 miles from Baghdad along the Tigris River. Among his many agricultural projects, Greaser worked with two local farm organizations to provide training to more than 200 women, many of whom are widows, in small poultry flock management or beekeeping. After completing each course each trainee either received 10 hens, a rooster, and 110 pounds of fodder or a starter hive and swarm of bees. Demand for these courses continues and will be repeated throughout the area with expansion into livestock training. Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, Greaser currently lives in Williamsburg, Penn. He received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Penn State University in State College, Penn.
In Iraq, PRTs are led by the U.S. Department of State and are typically composed of more than 50 military and civilian personnel, the majority being from the military. The PRT agricultural advisor is just one of the civilians on the PRT; other personnel come from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and Department of Justice.
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. This spring, 60-70 Iraqi extension specialists received advanced extension training at five U.S. land-grant universities under the Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project (IAER). Currently, Greaser is working on a project to bring eights Iraqis to Penn State University this fall.
Programs such as USDA’s Cochran Fellowship Program and the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program have brought more than 30 Iraqis to the United States for short-term specialized training. 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 Trust, which serves as a credit guarantee for participating banks financing the import of poultry feed ingredients. In 2008, Iraq imported U.S. poultry feed ingredients valued at $3.9 million due to the USGC’s efforts to rebuild Iraq’s poultry industry.
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.
Contact:Linda Habenstreit (202) 720-9442