GEAPS – The Grain Elevator & Processing Society

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN, Oct. 17, 2003 -- A key USDA official serving in Iraq will speak at GEAPS Exchange 2004 in Minneapolis, the conference and trade show’s 75th anniversary.

George Aldaya, director of the Kansas City Commodity office at USDA’s Farm Service Agency, will deliver a presentation about U.S. efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq’s agriculture sector.

Aldaya has worked in Iraq for the past several months. His duties include assessing the validity of agricultural-development projects carried out by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and helping transfer the assets and inventories to local Iraqi groups. Many of the development projects are still underway, Aldaya said.

The Exchange will be held Feb. 21-24 at the convention center in downtown Minneapolis.

While the session about Iraq will deal with current problems and issues relating to agriculture in the country, the topic carries a strong historical component: Iraq has a long tradition of crop production. Although many people think of the country as primarily desert, it’s also part of the Fertile Crescent – a land rich in soil, water and agricultural potential. Grain has been grown, stored and milled in the region for thousands of years.

Iraq’s main crops still include corn, wheat, barley and rice. Despite the turmoil in Iraq today, crops are being planted and harvested – though at reduced levels. According to USDA, grain production has recently been about half of what it was before the first Gulf War ended. Lack of inputs, a deteriorating irrigation infrastructure, limited investment and drought all have played roles in the decline, USDA said.

Aldaya said his mission in Iraq includes working with local officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture, advising them on organization and management, and hiring people to help them when needed. Aldaya also said it’s his job to become familiar with agriculture in Iraq so that he can recommend the type of advisors that would be helpful.

Aldaya was named director of the Kansas City Commodity office in 2000. Previously, he was deputy director for the Office of Operations, which is a part of Departmental Administration at USDA in Washington, D.C.

The Exchange – a technical conference and exposition for people in grain-operations and related professions – is expected to draw more than 2,000 people from around the world.

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