Kurdistan, an autonomous region located in northern Iraq, aims to become the ‘Breadbasket of the Middle East’ – and they are turning to North Dakota for assistance. A small delegation from North Dakota returned from Iraq last week where they met with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders to discuss agribusiness cooperation.
“Kurdistan wants to replicate North Dakota’s farming operations, complete from farm to market,” said Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO). “The collaboration will provide fantastic opportunities for our state’s exporters and training facilities.”
The relationship between North Dakota and Iraq began in May when the Dakota Defense Alliance (DDA) was introduced to Iraqi and Kurdish officials by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition as part of the Smart Power 2.0. The Smart Power initiative is one in which the U.S. supports economic development overseas to stabilize conflict and provide growth markets for American goods and services.
“It is in our national security interest to empower Iraq to become self-sustaining,” said Kristin Hedger, executive director of the DDA. “Currently, Iraq is importing nearly 100% of their food from Iran and Turkey. They hope to replicate our style of farming and ranching so they can not only become self-sustaining but also become exporters. It is a win-win for both of our regions.”
While in Iraq, the North Dakota delegation discussed collaboration opportunities with sheikhs from the Barzani tribe, one of the oldest and most-prominent Kurdish tribes in Kurdistan. The sheikhs have made arrangements for a return visit to North Dakota in June and plan to tour facilities in all aspects of agribusiness.
A delegation from Iraq and Kurdistan will also visit North Dakota in September for the Big Iron International Visitors program during the Big Iron Farm Show in Fargo.
“Past leadership in Iraq has stifled their agriculture, but the Iraqi and Kurdish people recognize the opportunity to thrive in agribusiness,” said Gorder. “They see North Dakota as one of the world’s agriculture leaders and are eager to see our facilities and expertise first-hand.”
To learn more about this initiative, contact Dean Gorder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701) 231-1155.