Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba

Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba
By Jane Fyksen

HAVANA, Cuba — As part of President Barrack Obama's trip to Cuba to
further normalization of relations, advance commercial and
people-to-people ties, and express U.S. support for human rights in
Cuba, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced several
measures to foster further collaboration between U.S. and Cuban
agriculture sectors. The two neighboring countries share common climate
and agriculture-related concerns.

While in Cuba, Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will
allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18
Marketing Order organizations to conduct authorized research and
information-exchange activities with Cuba. These groups, which are
responsible for creating bonds with consumers and businesses around the
world in support of U.S. agriculture, will be able to engage in
cooperative research and information exchanges with Cuba about
agricultural productivity, food security and sustainable
natural-resource management.

Vilsack and Cuban Minster of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero are
expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a framework
for sharing ideas and research between the two countries. Vilsack also
invited Rollero to join a trip to one of the agency's Climate Sub Hubs
in Puerto Rico in late May, where USDA researchers are studying the
effects of climate change in the subtropical region.

"U.S. producers are eager to help meet Cuba's need for healthy, safe,
nutritious food," Vilsack said. "Research and Promotion, and Marketing
Order programs have a long history of conducting important research that
supports producers by providing information about a commodity's
nutritional benefits and identifying new uses for various commodities.
The agreements ... will help U.S. agricultural interests better
understand the Cuban market, while also providing the Cuban people with
science-based information as they grow their own agriculture sector."

USDA will review all proposed Research and Promotion Board and Marketing
Order activities related to Cuba to ensure they are consistent with
existing laws. Examples of activities that may take place include:

Provide nutritional research and guidance, as well as participate with
the Cuban government and industry officials, at meetings regarding
nutrition and related Cuban rules and regulations.
Conduct plate-waste study research in schools to determine what kids eat
and what they discard, leading to improved nutritional information that
helps develop the guidance for school-meal requirements, ensuring kids
are receiving adequate nutrition to be successful in school.
Provide U.S.-based market, consumer, nutrition and
environmental-research findings to Cuban government and industry officials.
Research commodities' role in a nutritious diet that improves health or
lowers the risk of chronic diseases.
Study the efficacy of water disinfectants to eliminate/inactivate
bacteria on commodities
Test recipes and specific products among Cuban consumers of all ages,
with the goal of increasing product development and acceptance.
Conduct consumer-tracking studies to measure attitudes when it comes to
a specific commodity and consumption, and to identify consumer groups
based on behavior, attitudes and purchasing habits for a particular
While most U.S. commercial activities are prohibited, the Trade
Sanctions Reform Act of 2000 permits the export of U.S. agricultural
commodities. U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba are limited, though, by
U.S. restrictions on government export assistance, cash payments and
extending credit.

U.S. agricultural exports have grown significantly since trade was
authorized in 2000. In 2014, Cuba imported more than $2 billion in
agricultural products, including $300 million from the United States.
However from 2014 to 2015 U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba fell 48
percent, to $148.9 million, the lowest since 2002. That resulted in the
United States having just a 10 percent market share as Cuba's
fourth-largest agricultural supplier, behind the European Union, Brazil
and Argentina.

The current visit to Cuba is the first by a sitting U.S. president in
nearly 90 years. It was Vilsack's second visit. According to the
president, he is committed to charting a new course for U.S.-Cuban
relations through expanded travel, commerce and access to information.

Source: Vilsack allows agricultural checkoffs in Cuba -

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