State legislators praise Kentucky National Guard agribusiness mission

MJO

Story by David Altom, Public Affairs Deputy Director

Photos courtesy of U.S. Army

Lt. Col. Toby Peterson, Maj. John Holmes and Maj. Brent Hulse brief members of the state legislature on the Kentucky National Guard's agribusiness development mission in Afghanistan.

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Members of the Kentucky National Guard’s first Agribusiness Development Team received a standing ovation from members of the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee Feb. 9 after briefing state legislators about the Kentucky National Guard’s ongoing missions in Afghanistan.

“This is one of the highlights of this session,” said Rep. Wilson Stone. “I believe that with all sincerity.”

Lt. Col. Toby Peterson, Maj. John Holmes and Maj. Brent Hulse gave state representatives an overview of the KYADT1’s mission during its 2009 Afghanistan deployment. The officers brought the committee up to date on the future of the KYADT mission and the role Kentuckians have in rejuvenating Afghanistan’s agricultural industry in a time of war.

“Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have the largest group out of nine states doing this mission,” said Holmes. “We currently cover more than 12,000 square miles in northern Afghanistan, working down to the extension agent level and very often the individual farmer.”

Holmes said the teams have received extensive support from the University of Kentucky, private businesses and local Kentucky farmers.

“The support is outstanding,” he said. “There are Kentucky Proud banners flying throughout three provinces.”

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture and Small Business listen as Maj. John Holmes and Lt. Col. Toby Peterson describe their mission in Afghanistan.

Rep. Rita Smart expressed interest in how the county extension agent concept worked in Afghanistan.

“Having been a county extension agent, I’m particularly excited to hear that you are using those methods and that they are working,” she said.

The Kentucky Guard has proved instrumental in providing irrigation and education projects and the introduction of Women’s Empowerment programs throughout the regions of KYADT operation.

The delegation reported that bee-keeping provides Afghan war widows a means for making money and providing for their families. Holmes said Afghan women are delving into poultry thanks to the current KYADT2’s efforts, raising chickens and selling eggs to increase household income.

“There is hope for their future,” Holmes told the committee members. “Resistance to education is gradually fading away. The more mature generation is encouraging their daughters to take part in the training. They’re opening schools and we’re trying to help them.”

Peterson said the agribusiness mission is far from over, and Kentucky’s assistance to the Afghan agribusiness development will continue to flourish.

“We have a team there now and one preparing to depart. There will be two more teams to follow after that, so we’ll be there for another three years,” he said.

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