US urges Afghans to choose grapes over opium poppy

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KABUL (AP) — The U.S. has announced plans to invest $20 million to improve the Afghan government’s ability to promote agriculture reforms that the Obama administration considers the main non-security element in stabilizing the country.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Associated Press on Tuesday that efforts to steer Afghan farmers away from the opium poppy trade are key to the war effort.

He says the $20 million will be used to improve the capacity of the Afghan Agriculture Ministry so it can better coordinate activities between the center and 34 provinces. He says the funding is conditioned on the ministry’s acceptance of five American advisers.

Vilsack wants to persuade Afghan farmers to choose grapes, wheat and other legal crops over opium poppy.