Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rebuilding Iraqi Agriculture

One of the lesser known parts of the Iraq puzzle for a lot of us has to be the efforts that are going on behind the scenes to rebuild Iraq from the bottom up.

It's curious that an administration that stood four square against doing much for the poor folks in its own cities and on the reservations, and family farmers in places like Iowa more or less let itself get stuck with the job of rebuilding a moderately sized middle eastern country. A country, I might add, with a checkered past and no great love for officious intermeddlers from the more developed parts of the world.

Of course, the administration did not think any of this was going to happen when el Presidente declared "Mission accomplished!" back in 2003 on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, but facts proved to be stubborn and unyielding.

Well, nevermind. It's similar to what my old man used to say when I came home with some knotty mess of my own making. He'd look up from his newspaper and tell me "You broke it-now fix it." That's the message America is getting from the rest of the world, and if anything the rest of the world would likely add "Be quick about it too."

One of the things we can and are doing that can actually win friends and influence people in the middle east in general and Iraq in particular is in the field of agriculture. We know a lot about it, we have the most productive farmers in the world, and we in farm country are always ready to pitch in and help folks out-and worry about who gets paid later on.

Thus it is that the fine folks from USAID in cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture are working with Case-New Holland and Massey Ferguson to train Iraqi mechanics and rehabilitate large quantities of inoperable agricultural equipment in that country. Better than half of Iraq is involved in farming and agriculture, and time was when the country was the breadbasket of the region.

But bad administration, official corruption, interminable warfare and internal terrorism all played their part in damaging a once productive farm economy. Lest we forget, Iraqi boys bleed as red as our own. Many are the modest Iraqi farms where an old mother and father wait in vain for their sons to walk up the hot dusty road to the place they called home so long ago, to drink from the well in the courtyard and sit in the shade and tell of the places they'd been.

Productive and remunerative farming will help a lot of people out of poverty in Iraq, and if they are like most folks we know, they will never forget who it was that picked them up, dusted them off, straightened their collars and said "You'll do just fine. Let's get to work, we've got crops to plant and critters to raise."


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