WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan on cooperation in agriculture. The agreement will help to broaden and strengthen the cooperative relationship between the two countries in the agricultural and agribusiness sectors.

"This MOU will foster collaboration between our government agencies, agribusinesses, scientific institutions and universities," Johanns said. "Both of our countries will benefit from increased cooperation in such areas as agricultural technology, rural development, trade and investment promotion and water and soil management."

In July 2006, Johanns led a U.S. trade and investment mission to Kazakhstan to open new opportunities for U.S. agribusinesses. During that mission, Johanns and Agriculture Minister Akhmedzhan Yesimov discussed developing the cooperative agreement that was signed today. Johanns also led the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of President Nazabayev in February 2006.

Since 1993, USDA has provided agricultural training under the Cochran Fellowship Program to more than 200 Kazakhstani in areas such as biotechnology, agribusiness marketing and management, livestock genetics, animal health and veterinary services. The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term, U.S.-based agricultural training opportunities for senior and mid-level specialists and representatives from the public and private sectors of middle-income and emerging market economies.

In addition, 16 Kazakhstani agricultural university instructors have participated in USDA's Agricultural Economics Faculty Exchange Program since 1995. This program brings university professors to the United States for five months to help them strengthen their expertise in agricultural economics, marketing, agribusiness management and agrarian law.

Since becoming an independent nation 15 years ago, Kazakhstan has made significant progress, moving from a centrally planned economy to a more transparent, less regulated, more market-driven business environment. These efforts serve as an excellent example for other countries in the region to emulate and make Kazakhstan an important strategic partner of the United States.

SOURCE: USDA news release.