At a conference of the American Coalition of Agriculture to Cuba on Thursday, U.S. Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated plans to open an office in Cuba to promote trade.
“There are a number of preliminary matters that have to be addressed before trade can be re-opened and before the embargo is lifted,” according to Secretary Vilsack.
“This is a market American agriculture should dominate.” – Secretary Vilsack
President Obama’s 2017 budget include $1.5 million for the planned office opening.
According to a statement made to the Cuba Journal by Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cargill and President of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition on Cuba, “It’s critical that USDA foreign service officers are placed at the Embassy in Havana. USDA presence is necessary for advancing trade in US food and agricultural goods. Having officials there will provide critical information required to build the market. These experts can begin to meet with Cuban ag officials and industry participants to forge greater collaboration between our industries. ”
In November, Secretary Vilsack led a delegation of U.S. Government officials traveling to Havana for a series of meetings in the interest of strengthening bilateral agricultural engagement. This marked the first official U.S. Department of Agriculture visit to Cuba since 1961.
Secretary Vilsack was accompanied by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and U.S. Representatives Terri Sewell of Alabama, Suzan DelBene of Washington and Kurt Schrader of Oregon. During his visit the Secretary met with Cuba’s vice-president Ricardo Cabrisas, Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. The Secretary also met with Cuban farmers and producers, visiting an agricultural cooperative and an urban fruit and vegetable market.
Vilsack held an open conversation with Cuban farmers to understand how their cooperative memberships work, learn about their irrigation and equipment techniques and challenges, and discuss climate change and other common issues faced by farmers in the United States and Cuba.