Cochran Fellowship Program

4th of a 10 Part Series
MidAmerica Farmer Grower

   The United States Department of Agriculture sponsors several programs to train people from Ukraine which helps facilitate mutual trade between the two countries. One of these is the Cochran Fellowship Program. “This is one of the more pleasant and fun things of my job here,” said USDA’s Agricultural Attaché in Ukraine, Dwight Wilder. “We run several scholarship programs for Ukrainians, the first one that has targeted the most folks here is called the Cochran Fellowship Program, a two to three week scholarship program.”
   The program and specific focus of the training is designed in his office in Ukraine. They recruit local Ukrainians in the ag sector, send them to the United States to learn all about a specific topic.
   “Usually each year we send three groups of around eight participants and usually at least one of those groups is specifically targeted to the Ministry of Agriculture or other regulatory agencies that affect agriculture,” he explained. “Just recently we did one to train veterinary service folks on entry port procedures in the United States. Since the early 2000s, we have trained about 400 or so Cochran fellows.”
   Acting Deputy Secretary (ADS) Michael Scuse added that “the Cochran Program brings government officials in to learn what we do in the United States, why we do it, how we do it.”
   He said this includes anything from the inspection process to how National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS) collects data for all of the reports the USDA presents.
   “There’s a whole list of things that we bring government officials in from other countries to learn about from the United States,” he explained. “They’ll go back and a lot of times it helps them with their regulatory process so at the end of the day it makes it easier for us to do two-way trade with these countries.
   “It’s one of the greatest programs often when I go to other countries, I’ll talk to the Cochran Fellows about what it has done to change their lives, changed their jobs and helped their governments,” ADS Scuse reported.
   “The other program that we do is the Borlaug Fellowship Program, where we’ll bring scientists and researchers from other countries into the United States to work with our scientists and researchers on specific projects that will have an impact on their home country. So these two programs are some of the best programs that the U.S. government actually does,” ADS Scuse said. 
   Ag Attaché Wilder expanded on the explanation:  “Ukrainian researchers choose a topic to enhance their professional skill set. They must speak English,” he said. “We send them to the United States for two to three months, they are partnered with a Land Grant University, they work very closely with a researcher in the United States, and then they come back here. A year later, the researcher they partnered with makes a trip to Ukraine to review their work in Ukraine. We have trained eight of those folks over the years and we’re trying to really push hard to expand that program.”
   A third program that begins at USDA’s office in Ukraine is a Faculty Exchange Program (FEP) which targets former Soviet Union countries. “This program finds agricultural economists that are professors training students and sends them to Land Grant Universities in the United States for two to three months. Here they are trained in economic principles. They return to Ukraine and spread the gospel of free markets. We’ve trained about 100 of those folks since the early 2000s,” Wilder said. ∆
   JOHN M. LAROSE: Publisher MidAmerica Farmer Grower
   BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower
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