Washington D.C.-Chairman Bob Goodlattee, Ranking Minority Member Charlie Stenholm, and other members of the House Agriculture Committee met this week with Ambassador Daniel G. Amstutz, Secretary Veneman’s choice to lead the U.S. agricultural reconstruction efforts in Iraq, regarding the Administration’s plans for reconstruction of the agriculture sector in the country.
Ambassador Amstutz is serving as the USDA’s senior ministry advisor for agriculture in the rebuilding process in Iraq and has been working with the Iraqi government and the Coalition forces in the region.
“I am pleased that the Administration is working to get Iraqi farmers back on their feet. Now that Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime has been dismantled by the Coalition Forces, America is committed to providing the Iraqi people with necessary assistance,” Chairman Goodlatte said. “Ambassador Amstutz’s experience and knowledge of agriculture will help the Iraqi people build a prosperous, democratic, market driven economy, which will open up trade markets to U.S. farmers and ranchers.”
Historically, Iraq has been a major producer of agricultural commodities. The Tigris and Euphrates river valleys have been compared to the very productive and fertile Central Valley of California. While fruit, vegetable and wheat production is prevalent in Iraq, the country is not self-sufficient.
“As our liberation operations wind down, we need to focus on the other half of our national security team---US agriculture,” Stenholm said. “We must ensure that there is adequate food aid so that their basic needs are met and they are able to transition into a commercial market as quickly as possible. I am optimistic that as the Iraqis transition into a normal economy we will be able to regain our traditional markets that were displaced by the actions of the Hussein regime.”
Yesterday the United Nations voted unanimously to end economic sanctions against Iraq. Lifting the sanctions will enable the Iraqi people to use the proceeds generated from oil sales to rebuild the economy, improve the infrastructure and meet the needs of a destitute people.