Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner writes about Agribusiness Teams

JAK

Story by Mr. Richie Farmer / Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Oliver/133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Mr. Richie Farmer is Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner.

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Nearly 500 soldiers and airmen from the Kentucky National Guard are currently deployed overseas in support of the Global War on Terror. I salute them all for everything they do to protect our freedom and keep us safe. I am especially proud of 64 of those guardsmen who deployed to Afghanistan in June to carry out a very special mission.

Kentucky’s second Agribusiness Development Team (ADT II) is stationed halfway around the globe for a year to help the Afghan people better provide for their families by helping revitalize agriculture in their war-torn country.

This will be the second such mission for the Kentucky National Guard. ADT II will be taking over for Kentucky’s ADT I, which is returning home soon after working in Afghanistan since September 2009.

I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of the young men and women of both of these teams. They demonstrate some of the best qualities of rural Kentucky – neighbors looking out for each other and lending a helping hand.

Like Kentucky, Afghanistan’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. Seventy percent of Afghans earn their living from agriculture, and it produces 40 percent of that nation’s gross national product.

If the Agribusiness Development Teams can improve Afghan agriculture, they will improve the Afghan people’s standard of living and the stability of the provincial and central governments. That decreases the likelihood that locals will find any reason to support insurgents or terrorists.

Col. Hunter Mathews, Agribusiness Development Team II commander, takes time out with 1st Lt. Travis Riley, ADT II security force commander, during a training exercise at Camp Atterbury, Ind. May 26 prior to their deployment to Afghanistan.

ADT II, like its predecessor, is helping Afghan farmers become agriculturally self-sufficient and develop markets. The team is not aiming to transform Afghanistan’s farms into modern Kentucky farms. Rather, it will help the Afghans make incremental but substantial improvements in their agriculture and capitalize on what they already do well.

The 64 members of ADT II include soldiers and airmen from Army National Guard and Air National Guard units from throughout Kentucky as well as some Army Reservists and Virginia National Guardsmen. The core of the unit is 10 agriculture and marketing specialists, including farmers, range management specialists, marketing managers, animal husbandry specialists, soil and irrigation specialists and a large animal veterinarian. Two of the guardsmen are agriculture engineers.

ADT II is receiving agricultural training and expertise from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky. The team will have the capability to reach back to Kentucky for knowledge and skills whenever expert advice is needed. For example, UK has a Web site that will enable members of ADT II to post photographs of possible plant and animal diseases or viruses and, within a few days, have validated results.

The members of ADT I are scheduled to return home in late June or early July, and I urge you to give them the hero’s welcome they deserve.

Members of both ADTs are putting into action the values of family and patriotism that are instilled in them from the fertile fields of Kentucky. They are helping fellow human beings while enduring tremendous personal sacrifice – being far from their loved ones and, in many cases, missing milestones in their children’s lives. I hope you are as proud of these young men and women as I am.

I invite you to follow ADT II’s deployment on its blog at www.kyadt2.wordpress.com. Also, take a minute to become a fan on its Facebook page – a link is on the right side of the Kentucky National Guard’s blog at www.kentuckyguard.wordpress.com.

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