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Vilsack Promotes Agriculture Improvement In Afghanistan, Announces $20M In Aid

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has launched “a major drive to improve agriculture” in Afghanistan, McClatchy/Miami Herald reports. During an airborne tour of the country’s Helmand province on Tuesday, Vilsack delivered the “message: If you grow wheat, vegetables and pomegranates instead of poppies, the United States will help you reap the financial benefits.” Vilsack said, “This is by far the number one non-military priority here in Afghanistan” (Day, 1/12).

Vilsack on Tuesday “announced an additional $20 million in aid to help improve Afghanistan’s agriculture ministry deliver services to farmers,” according to Reuters. “‘After decades of conflict, Afghanistan lacks many of the personnel and knowledge resources needed to deliver much-needed services to its people, more than 80 percent of whom rely on agriculture for wages and sustenance,’ he said at a news conference announcing the funds,” Reuters writes. The news service reports that the U.S. will spend an estimated $400 million on agriculture projects in Afghanistan this year, up from $300 million last year (Pleming, 1/12).

According to McClatchy/Miami Herald, “The Obama administration is deploying what it calls a ‘whole-of-government approach’ to rebuild Afghanistan’s agricultural economy around legal crops and efficient design, according to a mission statement. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development and the military will cooperate in the effort.” The article provides more information on the U.S. agriculture program in Afghanistan, including efforts to encourage wheat farming (1/12).