WASHINGTON – The U.S Department of Agriculture’s (U.S.D.A.’s) Foreign Agricultural Service (F.A.S.) is leading a trade mission of nearly 20 U.S. companies in Iraq to meet with more than 100 Iraqi entrepreneurs and buyers to develop business ties and explore opportunities for joint ventures, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced.

"As part of our ongoing efforts to stabilize the Iraqi economy, we are committed to fostering new economic partnerships and opportunities," he said. "The partnerships we are developing with the Iraqis will be critical to providing the agricultural commodities and food products necessary to meet the demands of Iraq's growing population, and this mission provides tremendous opportunities for all parties to benefit."

U.S. companies on the mission are both large and small, representing commodity, consumer-ready food and forest product industries, as well as agricultural input suppliers including agricultural equipment and irrigation system manufacturers. These U.S. companies are meeting face-to-face with Iraqi producers, importers, buyers, distributors and investors to develop trade relationships, propose joint activities, and learn best practices for working with one another.

As Iraq's agricultural sector has strengthened and grown, U.S.D.A. has adjusted its strategy to focus more on market development and market access for U.S. products. This mission reflects that strategy — to expand the range of U.S. food and agricultural products exported to Iraq, promote joint ventures, and boost investment in Iraq's developing agricultural sector.

These activities also will increase consumer food choices, improve agricultural production techniques, equipment and infrastructure, and create jobs, raising living standards and incomes in Iraq, according to U.S.D.A. Agriculture is Iraq's second-largest economic sector, accounting for 9.6% of its Gross Domestic Product and employing about 20% of the workforce.